A woman who lost her home in unstoppable bushfires on the NSW Mid-North Coast has credited BlazeAid with turning her life around.
Suzie West's Upper Pappinbarra property, to the west of Port Macquarie, burnt to the ground in the catastrophic fire on November 8.
"I lost everything. I was away, and unable to return to fight the fire or gather any belongings. The destructive and ruinous fire took my home and my shed and all their contents.
"I was left with only the clothes in my suitcase, my dog, which had been in a kennel, and my car which luckily I had left at the airport until my return," she said.
"My home resembled a house in a war-torn country. The fire zealously consumed everything in its path including my boundary and internal fences. I was devastated, the fire razed everything."
Ms West said disbelief hit first, anger followed, then depression, and life felt futile and hopeless.
"I was living inside a very big black cloud. I berated myself because there were other people worse off than myself yet I could not stop crying. Everything seemed too hard.
"No fences meant other farmers' cows wandered in to graze on the desolate paddocks. Somehow my two old horses - aged 34 and 28 - survived the fire but both lost their eyelashes.
"The farm is dry and we have not had any decent rain for a couple of years. The creek isn't running and the dam almost empty.
"I had previously donated water from the back dam to the RFS helicopters to fight a fire in the back of Kempsey. The farm had not received any rain since."
The Anglican church donated a fencing grant of $1000 for fencing supplies but Suzie couldn't fence, as the fire had destroyed her tools. The church warden suggested she register with BlazeAid at Wauchope Showground.
The fences started to stand up and so did I. Each day I worked with these wonderful people, I felt less depressed and I found myself laughing. I can honestly say, BlazeAid volunteers not only mended my fences but they mended me.Suzie West
Volunteers began arriving last weekend from all over Australia. Ms West says over four days, they smiled as they worked, in the energy-sapping heat, digging holes for posts, running wire and straining fences.
"The fences started to stand up and so did I. Each day I worked with these wonderful people, I felt less depressed and I found myself laughing. I can honestly say, Blaize Aid volunteers not only mended my fences but they mended me.
"Their community spirit was infectious and generous. It was a wonderful healing experience for me and I am very, very thankful to BlazeAid."