Escape from a firestorm

If Ray Ellen stayed at his home any longer, he doubts he would be able to tell his remarkable story of survival.

Mr Ellen was the only person home at hisCarnghamhome, west of Ballaraton Tuesday afternoon, and when he saw smoke coming over the trees, he knew danger was imminent.

He estimated he had an hour to save as many animals as he could before he fled.

He originally started driving his daughter’s small car, but did not think it would make it up his steep driveway, with burning tree limbs falling.

Instead he opted for his four-wheel-drive ute, a decision he says saved his life.

The father-of-four threw as many dogs as he could in the car before he drove away at the last second.

“I had a dog up front, probably seven in the trailer and I don’t know how many in the back,” he said.

Mr Ellen burnt his hand trying to open the metal gate, as the fast-approaching fire threatened to take his life.

“I actually had to step through fire to open the driver’s door. My biggest fear was that a limb would fall and knock me out and that I would be done for,” he said.

However the danger was far from over once Mr Ellen had made it out his front gate.

Blinding smoke meant he could not see a thing, but at the same time he had to flee the fire that was roaring behind him at high speed.

He drove along the dirt road of Station Lane, which has bends that can be tricky to negotiate at the best of times.

“I put the headlights on, put my head out the window to try and see the trees, held the horn down and drove,” said Mr Ellen.

He eventually found the safety of Carngham Road and once he saw the flashing lights of firetrucks, breathed an enormous sigh of relief.

He said the house next to him (which was also destroyed) was on fire, but he did not know until about midday yesterday whether his home had survived.

Sadly, he returned to find nothing but a pile of rubble.

Remarkably however, nearly all of the animals on the hobby farm had survived.

Some were more than 15 metres from the house, and Mr Ellen was still in disbelief they had not been killed.

Among the survivors were two sheep, two goats, two horses, two foals, a pig, chickens and even a few cats.

“We’ve lost the house but we can rebuild that,” he said.

“We haven’t lost any people and everybody is OK and really, that is all that matters.”

Mr Ellen vowed to rebuild the home that housed his wife Gayle, two daughters Kylie and Melissa and three grandchildren.

Ray Ellen says if he had stayed at his home any longer he would not have made it out alive. Photo: LACHLAN BENCE

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