Like many others, Julie Allan fled her bushfire-threatened NSW home last week in tears over what she had left behind.
But the wildlife carer wasn't crying for family treasures, rather two possums she simply couldn't carry.
Ms Allan left her home at Chain Valley Bay on the Central Coast on Thursday night with her four grandchildren, one of their friends, her elderly parents, four domestic pets and a brushtail possum.
She hastily decided to leave behind three stronger possums, believing her home would survive the blaze and that the trio had the best chance of dealing with the stress.
The possums did survive but Ms Allan said it was an awful choice to make.
"One of the hardest decisions you'll ever have to make is to leave something behind when there's a major event like a flood or a fire," she told AAP on Monday.
"It was extremely difficult. I had to prioritise and that was awful."
The motley crew spent the night at Doyalson RSL and returned home on Friday, only to be told about 30 minutes later that the danger had returned.
This time it was too late to leave, so the family sheltered inside as the fire almost licked the back fence.
WIRES volunteers such as Ms Allan are preparing for an influx of native animals that will emerge from burnt bushland all over the state.
They say many have already died in the blaze.
Ms Allan has already taken in two more possums after the fire. A singed ringtail possum is showing signs of recovery but a female had to be euthanased.
WIRES says many badly-burned animals will have to be euthanased but urges the public to look out for birds, joeys and other small animals that manage to flee or shelter.