Aaron Salway has been so busy fencing and feeding cattle that he hasn’t had time to grieve.
He lost his younger brother Patrick, 29, and his father Robert, 63, to a firestorm that ravaged the far south coast of NSW on New Year’s Eve.
“I just keep thinking they’re going to walk around the corner of the shed,” Mr Salway told AAP.
“But that ain’t going to happen.”
Patrick and Robert Salway died trying to protect their home in the farming hamlet of Wandella outside Cobargo, but the fire was too intense.
Their bodies were found about 60 metres downhill from the house.
“It must have been something like a fireball that got them – they wouldn’t have seen it coming,” Mr Salway said.
He described the blazing attack as like a war zone, where firebombs bounced and exploded across the countryside.
“To tell you the truth, the noise of the fire was just unbelievable.”
“We’ve had fires here before but never with this much intensity. This had 50 years of fuel behind it. There was no way you were going to stop it.”
The bushfire has taken an immense personal toll.
But as Mr Salway strives to keep his family together and preserve what little is left of their farms, the mourning must wait.
“It’s going to hit me like a tonne of bricks, I know that for sure,” Mr Salway said.
“But as Dad and Patrick would say, try and pick yourself up and try and keep going, so that’s what we’re doing.”
Mr Salway has taken Patrick’s two-year-old son Harley under his wing.
“It’s going to be hard – he’s lost his father.”
“I just hope I can hold up my end of the deal and try and give him a father figure and do the best I can.”
Mr Salway spent the day after the fire putting up fencing to keep cattle off the highway, and selling some of his stock.
“Ever since then we’ve been flat out feeding cows and fencing and trying to do our daily chores with milking cows,” he said.
“I’ve thrown my wife in the deep end here because I’ve been up there (at his parents’ place) and yeah, it’s not pleasant.
“But we’re finding the courage to keep moving forward and hopefully it gets better from here.”
The Salways are fifth-generation farmers in the once-lush Bega Valley.
His grandfather used to run cattle in the mountains behind Wandella to keep the bush and fire risk risk down.
But as restrictions were imposed, the family stuck to their land and watched the scrub grow thick on the ridge.
“Dad always said you’ve got to burn it otherwise it’ll burn you,” Mr Salway said.
“Unfortunately, it got Dad and me brother.”
The tight-knit local community has wrapped its arms around the family.
“It’s hard going but just the support we’ve had from people is unbelievable, the generosity is unexplainable,” Mr Salway said.
He desperately wants the region to bounce back but knows it will be tough.
Many people have no money to rebuild and the valley has been crippled by drought.
“You wake up each day and you think you’ve just got to keep taking a step, putting one foot in front of the other, and we will get there,” Mr Salway said.
“But it’s a bloody long road.”