South Coast bushfires: Mal Rixon describes New Year's Eve Mogo firestorm

From the Bay Post Newpaper

The owner of a South Coast bus company saved himself from the New Year’s Eve bushfire by taking refuge in a cool room for four hours.

Rixon’s Buses owner Mal Rixon lost a bus, the business offices, vintage cars, caravans, 40-year-old “irreplaceable” collections and machinery sheds at his Mogo property.

He said his home caught fire three times and a cottage caught fire, but he managed to save them, on his own.

“I had no choice,” he said. “I evacuated everyone in the morning, and stayed, hoping to fight a fire – but the firestorm beat me.”

He fought the flames until the heat and fumes got to him.

“I’ve never seen such a fire storm in my life,” he said. “The ’94 fires were bad, but there was no fire storm.

“The monster that came through before the fire was what did all the damage, it was exploding all around me. The semi-trailers were exploding. You just couldn’t fight it.

“I was by myself running from fire to fire trying to save the house, the buses, and the cottage below.

“I took shelter after a while, I thought I was dead. I thought that was it. My escape route got cut off.

“I rang both my daughters and told them I loved them and didn’t think I would be around anymore.”

He moved to an old non-functional cool room for four hours, and hoped the insulation would protect himself from the heat.

“After the southerly hit, I was able to get out. The house was on fire. It was a very close call,” he said.

“The police came around at 4am to see if anyone was still alive.

“The fire had such ferocity that no firemen could get there.”

He said he inhaled fumes from the smoking trees, tyres, oils and paint thinners and his daughter took him to hospital to be treated.

“I’m OK, they checked me out,” he said. “I lived another day.”

Mr Rixon hoped to continue the bus services, despite losing computers and records since the blaze.

“I’ve picked myself up, going to dust myself off, get back into it and do what we do best,” he said.

The Kings Highway is expected to open on the afternoon of January 14.