A NSW south coast couple who lost everything in bushfires on New Year's Eve are demonstrating the true meaning of community spirit by continuing to volunteer at their local Rural Fire Service control centre.
Chris and Leisa Tague lost their Bimbimbie family home after it was completely engulfed by flames on December 31 during the unprecedented bushfire season that is still burning through many parts of Australia.
The generous couple spent their seventh wedding anniversary volunteering at Moruya Fire Control Centre this week.
The couple decided they would “do their bit” for the community because “there wasn't much else they could do” at their burnt-out home which was just three years old.
"Everyone down here is coming together as a community, the least we can do is help in any way that we can, so we just got back out there," Mr Tague told Yahoo News Australia.
"The firies couldn't save our home, but there were things we could still do and the rest of the community was still under threat," Mrs Tague added.
‘I just had to get out of there’
The couple designed and built the family home themselves just three years ago. By early morning on New Year's Eve 2019, the family knew they had to leave.
While Mrs Tague headed to Moruya Evacuation Centre at Moruya Showground with two of their children (their other two children were with family in Sydney at the time), Mr Tague remained at their property to defend it from the oncoming firestorm.
"We had a bushfire plan. The plan was to fight the ember attack as much as we could, but get out after that," he said.
When the massive, fast-moving bushfire had reached the Tague’s property, it proved more than what Mr Tague had prepared for. He then had to concentrate on getting himself to safety.
"Nothing came small, there were no small embers. It was suddenly a large fire all over the block."
"By the time I got from the fire hose to the car and out onto the road, the whole street was on fire. I just put my foot down to get out of there," Mr Tague said.
The couple have remained incredibly positive throughout the terrifying ordeal, and have chosen to focus on moving forward by helping others in their community in its time of need – even though they had lost everything themselves.
"I think its the first couple of days that you're most likely to dwell, so if you can keep busy and help others during that time, it helps you stay focused on what's important," Mrs Tague said.
"We've been inundated with [assistance] from so many kind people, that we wanted to give back as well."
‘Come and visit us’
As the whole nation and the rest of the world dig deep to help Aussie communities ravaged by bushfires, Mrs Tague, who works as a Tourism Events Coordinator at Eurobodalla Shire Council, says one of the best ways to support fire-affected communities is to come and see their towns.
"When this has all passed, come and visit us. Do all the things there are to do here and support our local businesses," she said.
"That's what we need. We need people to keep coming, keep visiting and keep our tourism industry alive."
She advised visitors should still monitor road conditions and fire activity before heading to the region.
The couple has revealed they feel very fortunate to have been taken in by friends who offered up a house for their family to stay in for eight weeks, while they got back on their feet.
“We all know it’s a tragic time, a lot of families have lost their homes but I think it’s important to remember it’s not the end of the world,” Mrs Tague said.
“They’re material items, there are more memories to be made, everyone got out safe and you have to focus on that to move forward – nothing will come of dwelling on what has been,” she told Yahoo News Australia.
Rebuilding their lives
As for rebuilding their family home, the couple have welcomed the challenge as an opportunity to do it all again.
"We might paint it a different colour this time," Mrs Tague said.
"It'll bring us together as a family, and the community is pretty cool down here, everyone is supporting everyone," Mr Tague added.
According to the NSW RFS Facebook page, there were 111 bush and grass fires burning across NSW on Monday, with at least 40 still to be contained.
As fire crews continue to work tirelessly in such dangerous conditions, the couple stress the importance of being prepared with a fire plan.
"Have a fire plan, everyone thinks it won't happen to them, but it can," Mrs Tague said.
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