NZ Herald


Former Wallaby prop Al Baxter has described the frightening bushfire scenes which turned his family’s holiday into a nightmare.

Baxter, who played 69 tests, was trying to shelter from the fire in the Malua Bay Surf Club which was then “smashed by embers” as he put it to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The family had evacuated their holiday home on the New South Wales south coast but a supposed haven turned into another nightmare as the Clyde Mountain Fire swept in.

That’s when someone yelled “get out, get out”.

“We heard what sounded like the rumble of a waterfall and it got really dark. Strange orangey-brown loose embers were falling out of the sky and we started seeing spot fires,” the 42-year-old Baxter said.

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“There were about 1000 people there and we went down to the beach and there were horses and dogs and budgies and chickens.

“You could hardly see the hand in front of your face. It was this weird darkness with red edges to it, but not being able to see any flames was better in a way.”

Sydney architect Baxter was on holiday with his wife Jen, their three children and other family members.


Baxter added: “Whole houses started burning in Malua Bay. All three sides of the beach were going up.

“There was this really fierce howling wind that brought embers with it. We started seeing headlands and ridges up and down the coast going up.

As the front passed, the heard gas bottles exploding as residents watched houses burn. It was still. When a southerly arrived the headlands around them reignited.

“It once again went dark and this howling wind, which was a colder wind and filled with smoke and dust and embers, was coming back the other way. The fires started coming back towards the beach,” he said.

When they returned to their family beach house in Rosedale it had been turned into molten steel and mesh, like most of the neighbours’ places.

This article first appeared on and is republished with permission.

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