As It Happens

Australian who lost her home and business to wildfires says country is 'like a war zone'

Lorena Granados says it was "raining fire" when she and her family fled their home in New South Wales.

Lorena Granados says it was 'raining fire' when she and her family narrowly escaped Mogo, New South Wales

This was the view as Lorena Granados and her family fled their home in Mogo, New South Wales, Australia on Tuesday. (Submitted by Lorena Granados )

Lorena Granados says it was "raining fire" when she and her family fled their home in Mogo, New South Wales.

The air was thick with smoke against a blood-orange sky as they raced through the fire-lined streets of Mogo on their way out of town Tuesday morning.

"It was like being in a war zone," Granados said."We must have looked like ants in comparison to the fire. It was just roaring like a three-story building towards us."

When Granados, 41, spoke to As It Happens guest host Helen Mann the next day, she was in a hotel 10 kilometres outside of town with her husband Eduardo Gaspar Roman and their 12-year-old son Dante.

They're among thousands of Australians who have been forced from their homes by devastating wildfires. About five million hectares of land have burned, at least 17 people have been killed, and more than 1,400 homes have been destroyed.

Watch: Lorena Granados' last video on the way out of Mogo:

Escaping wildfires in New South Wales

4 years ago
Duration 0:27
Lorena Granados and her husband Edaurdo Gaspar Roman shot this footage of wildfires in Mogo, Australia, on their way out of town Tuesday. (Warning: Video contains coarse language.)

When Granados got the evacuation order from authorities at 5 a.m. on Tuesday, she says she and Roman tried in vain to save their home and their leather shop. 

They had three fire hoses running simultaneously, she said, but it was no use. They lost everything.

She managed to pack up three suitcases and a bag with a few knick-knacks and family photos before they hit the road at 9:30 a.m. 

"We stayed 'til the fire was on top of us. We couldn't do any more," she said. "If we would have stayed an extra two minutes, we would have gone with the fire. Like, we left at the point where our skin was burning."

This is all that remains of Roman Leathergoods, the shop Granados ran with her husband Eduardo Gaspar Roman in Mogo. (Roman Leathergoods/Facebook )

It was a tough slog to get out, she said, with everyone in town trying to leave at the same time. 

The New South Wales state government has declared a state of emergency, beginning on Friday, giving authorities the power to forcibly evacuate people from their homes and take control of services.

Temperatures are forecast to soar above 40 C along the south coast on Saturday, bringing the prospect of renewed firefronts to add to the around 200 current blazes.

"It looks like an apocalypse," Granados said. "You've got 10 fires starting at one [time]. You're turning one off and then there's nine more lining up, because it's so dry."

Lorena Granados, left, her husband Eduardo Gaspar Roman, centre, and their son Dante. (Submitted by Lorena Granados)

Resources have also been slim, she said.

There was only one local fire brigade on the scene trying to fight the flames and co-ordinate the evacuation in Mogo on Tuesday, she said. 

Power had already been out for 24 hours before they left, she said. They'd run out of water, and the shops were only letting in five people at a time.

"Everything's stretched to the limit. The whole country is burning and we are in complete crisis," she said. "We don't even have the water to fight these fires."

She's not alone in her frustrations. 

Angry residents cursed at Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday as he visited the wildfire-ravaged Cobargo in New South Wales.

Locals yelled at him, made obscene gestures and called him an "idiot" and worse, criticizing him for the lack of equipment to deal with the fires in town.

They jeered as his car left. In the New South Wales town of Quaama, a firefighter refused to shake hands with him.

"Every single time this area has a flood or a fire, we get nothing. If we were Sydney, if we were north coast, we would be flooded with donations with urgent emergency relief," a Cobargo resident told The Associated Press. 

This is what's left of Granados' home in Mogo. (Submitted by Lorena Granados)

The outpouring of anger came as authorities said 381 homes had been destroyed on the New South Wales southern coast this week. During that time, at least eight people have died in New South Wales and the neighbouring state of Victoria.

"I'm not surprised people are feeling very raw at the moment. And that's why I came today, to be here, to see it for myself, to offer what comfort I could," Morrison said. 

By Thursday, Granados and her family were about halfway to Sydney, where her daughter lives. But she said she has no idea what comes next. 

"I don't know where we're going to work. I don't know where our income will come from," she said. "We're alive and that's pretty much it."

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Reuters and The Associated Press. Interview with Lorena Granados produced by Samantha Lui.