SMOKE AND FIRE: Holiday-maker Hannah Winter took this photo as she and her partner were being evacuated from the Pebbly Beach campground in the early hours of Saturday morning.
SMOKE AND FIRE: Holiday-maker Hannah Winter took this photo as she and her partner were being evacuated from the Pebbly Beach campground in the early hours of Saturday morning. Hannah Winter

VIDEO: Campers' scary brush with Station Creek fire

THICK smoke engulfed the car as Hannah Winter and her partner drove through the Station Creek fire.

"It was absolutely terrifying," she said.

"The smoke was so thick it was in the car, stinging our eyes. We could see the fire burning to the edges of the road."

The Port Stephens resident and her partner Clive were camping with friends at Pebbly Beach when they got the order to evacuate on Friday night.

Ms Winter said they arrived at the camping ground on Wednesday and had settled in for a five-day holiday.

It was her first trip away since undergoing back surgery and something she had been looking forward to ever since.

"On Thursday we set up the big pergola, and Friday at about midday we cracked a beer and had a few drinks," she said.

"About 3pm the ranger came around and said we were on standby because the smoke was getting a bit thick, but that it was still far away. The couple we were with started to get stuff together but I didn't think much of it, I thought she'll be right.

"We couldn't see the fire, but we saw the smoke getting thicker and thicker, and then we saw the helicopters and a plane with a siren going."

By 8pm the fire was getting too close for comfort to the remote bush site, which is only accessible through a water crossing around low tide, and the evacuation orders were given by the ranger.

Low tide was not until 2.10am, however, so campers spent a nervous few hours waiting until they could cross.

"We went hammer and tong and threw everything into the car, and I just thought god I hope we make it out," Ms Winter said.

"You could really hear that eerie crackling, burning sound, and for that last two hours we were biting our fingernails."

When the tide was low enough, they made the water crossing and were escorted through the worst of the fire by fire-fighters.

"Hats off to the firies and ranger Rob," she said.

"They did a great job escorting people out."

Fortunately, Ms Winters' father lives in Coffs Harbour, so they went straight to his doorstep at 3am. They are now back on holiday a bit closer to home, at a caravan park.

"I wasn't going to let it ruin my R'N'R," she said, "but I don't think I'll go to Pebbly Beach again. We were looking at the map two days later and literally went right to the edge of the beach."

The fire last weekend burnt through about 3400 hectares of land, including 1800 hectares of state forest and hardwood plantation, and 1600 hectares of National Park Land.

On paper it appears to have burnt right through the Pebbly Beach camp ground, but a National Parks and Wildlife Service spokeswoman said fire crews worked closely with support from the air, to ensure there was no damage to any infrastructure in the area.



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