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'Pits of red': Blore brothers recall Lake Conjola bushfire

It was supposed to be a family holiday to celebrate the last day of 2019 but for Penrith's Blore brothers – Dean and Shawn – their experiences from the Currowan bushfire will live with them forever.

The Panthers travelled to Bega for the EISS Super Sapphire Trial Tribute trial on Wednesday two months after, and 220km away, from where their brush with the horrific fires took place.

Lake Conjola was among the worst towns hit by a ferocious bushfire on New Year's Eve with more than 90 houses lost in a community boasting just a tick over double that figure.

The popular tourist destination was swamped with holiday-goers - including the Blore brothers and their family - when high temperatures and a change in wind direction sent deadly embers towards the coastal town with limited notice.

"Our family friends have a spot down there so we just happened to pick Lake Conjola this year," Dean Blore told NRL.com.

A scene of the fire devastation on the NSW South Coast.
A scene of the fire devastation on the NSW South Coast. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"Everything was sweet leading into it, we were next to the beach at the local caravan park. I made myself a cup of tea and walked outside and it was like something in a movie with all the smoke.

"Shawn was somewhere else, I took my sister for a swim and we got a call from my dad saying come back quickly.

"Everyone just started yelling you need to leave everything and go to the beach. You had no time to pack anything. By that time all you could see was pits of red around you and that's when we realised this was getting serious."

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The Blore brothers helped their family and others evacuate to the beach at the safest possible end – a 10-minute walk.

For the predominantly elderly locals around town, the walk felt like an eternity as the fire raged behind them.

Once they arrived at the beach, the sight of cars in the lake and people sitting on boats and jet skis watching on in fear came with two rescue helicopters doing everything they could to save what was left.

"It got within about 10 metres from us in the end, the sky was black, it was a fireball and embers were flying off into the water," Blore said.

"I had to cover my mouth the whole time. You were in an oven and it was like steam. 

"We were helping my nan and pop and making sure everyone was OK. I've never seen them or my mum so scared and thinking they were going to die."

As the fire front pushed through, Blore feared the family cars, Christmas presents and caravan park itself, had gone.

Remarkably, everything avoided the fire's path.

The sky was black, it was a fireball and embers were flying off into the water

Penrith's Dean Blore on the Lake Conjola bushfire

"I had no doubt we would've been the first to go," he said. "We're not sure how it didn't go through the park but it survived."

For all the Blore's family luck, other family's lives in the area wouldn't be the same.

The aftermath of the New Year's Eve bushfires continued for days.

There was no access to the main road out of Lake Conjola, buildings were smoldering and considered unsafe, lives were unaccounted for and food and water supplies were limited.  

"We were stuck for two days and could only listen to one local radio station for information, that was probably the hardest part," Blore said.

"When we did have phone reception we were telling people we were OK and on the beach but then everything just cut out and you couldn't contact anyone.

"Shawn and I with a couple of mates got on the bikes and went through the streets to check in on people after it all.

"Looking at the houses you saw animals lying there gone. You see it on the news and think that's sad but once you're face to face it's one of the scariest things you can ever encounter in life."

An aerial view of the South Coast following the fires.
An aerial view of the South Coast following the fires. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

The Blore family managed to leave Lake Conjola just under 48 hours after their ordeal.

"It was actually hard to leave everything behind but naturally at the time I was keen to get home and see my own bed ... I'd go back in a heartbeat though now," Blore said.

"The community down there is awesome. More than 90 houses gone and people still made sure we were OK while we were parked on the side of the road waiting to leave.

"One guy lost his house and was up and down the street with water to offer. I can't wait to go back and give back to them."