A WOMAN died and more than 100 homes were destroyed when bushfires swept through Sutherland Shire and into St George in January, 1994.
After five horrific days, the toll also included the loss of a church and school, damage estimated at $27 million, the evacuation of 5000 residents, and 25 square kilometres of bushland being burnt out.
Jannali and Como West were the worst hit areas, with a total of 91 homes destroyed.
Five houses at Bangor and nine at Alfords Point were also lost.
‘‘Hope in hell!’’ was the headline on a special Leader wraparound recording the horrific events, and the incredible efforts of those who fought the fires and provided relief to the victims.
With the community rallying to support victims, an editorial urged: ‘‘All is not lost, hang in there.’’
Firefighters from as far away as Darwin, Adelaide and Hobart joined local brigades, other emergency services and residents in fighting the fires.
Clubs and other community organisations, along with various state government agencies, provided accommodation and other aid for victims and evacuees, while relief appeals were quickly launched.
The first fire threat occurred at Menai on Thursday, January 6, but was beaten back.
However, about 5pm the next day, five homes in Yates Road and Yala Road were burnt.
About 3.30pm on Saturday, January 8, flames swept across the Woronora River towards Bonnet Bay, Jannali and Como West.
A resident of Lincoln Crescent, Bonnet Bay, died of smoke inhalation while others were injured.
Nine homes in Illawong were destroyed the same afternoon, during which the blaze also leapt the Georges River into bushland near homes at Lugarno.
A picture of chaos was presented to the coroner’s inquiry which followed the disaster.
Detective Sergeant Terry Campbell was one of the first police to arrive at Lincoln Crescent, Bonnet Bay.
He told of roads being clogged as fire crews and other emergency teams tried to enter the area and residents fled.
The smoke was so thick he could not see the front of his vehicle and the noise from the fire was very loud.