It was a glorious Friday morning on November 15, 2019. My wife Ivanka and I went for our morning walk around our farm on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. We love this place because we have found peace and tranquillity here away from the noises of city life. The bees were buzzing around the trees in our front yard that were filled with blossoming flowers—a nectar heaven. I was telling my wife how peaceful and lovely our farm looked that morning—just one of the joys of country living.
My eldest son Bernard phoned me that morning from Canberra, to see if we were doing OK. He was concerned for the fires that were burning in our region. I told him not to worry as there was no sight of any fires nearby. Little did I know that in the next several hours our lives would change forever.
Continuing with our morning stroll, I went to check our beehives to see if there was any honey for robbing. Unbeknown to me, a few kilometres away, two fire fronts were building rapidly. One coming from the north side—Toorooka and the other from south Willawarrin.
In a matter of hours, lots of smoke surrounded us. The wind had drastically changed and it fuelled the fires to move quickly. All of a sudden, we were surrounded. The electricity was cut off as was our mobile phone reception, our only means of communication. Our water pumps were not working since the electricity was now non-existent. I couldn’t call my other son Ariel, who lived locally to come and help us as we were incommunicado from the world.
Thousands of embers were flying toward our house, blown by strong winds, and spot fires started on my front porch. I called my wife to come and bring me buckets to battle the fires. We were running back and forth to the water tank with an attached tap. I would fill the buckets and my wife and I would run to water the fires coming from every direction.
Around 5pm that day, I saw we were surrounded by fireballs rolling from all directions. I was exhausted from running with buckets full of water. My wife had collapsed to the ground in pain due to a stitch in her abdomen and told me she could not continue, neither could she move. I was left with no choice but to fight the monstrous fires alone. The wind was extremely strong, which made it useless for me to battle the fires. The smoke was awfully thick, I could not breathe properly.
At that moment of despair I cried out, “God, You didn’t bring us to this farm to die this way, help us, save our home!” I was drained, as I had never anticipated that these fires would come at an impossible speed. I was not prepared. I did what I could but my cry out for help to God was all I could do. I could see the front cattle yard and the bus stop shelter in front burning beyond recognition. From the back of our house the fire was coming towards us at an impossible rate and destroying everything in its path. Ultimately, the two massive fires from Toorooka and Willawarrin joined at our farm.
Little did I know that on that same day, the same fires had already devoured many properties, houses, even lives in a matter of hours.
Just like in the movies, the RFS came to see if our property was okay, just after the fires had passed through. I told them “God had saved our home” and they moved on to the next property.
It was only divine intervention that saved us and our home that day, nothing else. I cried out to God for help and protection, and He answered.
At 71 years old, I have never felt as traumatised and helpless as that day. Around us, most neighbours lost their homes, sheds, machinery and animals. Both fire fronts went around our property like a divine hand had guided them and our home was spared. These traumatic moments will stay in our minds forever, but also the miracle that came with it. I was reminded that day of the promise found in Psalm 34:17: “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.”
Michael Spoljar is a member of Kempsey Adventist Church, NSW. Story as told to Edgard and Shania Lopez.