Tim and Tammy Holmes were watching their five grandchildren– spending some time at their beach home in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley– when the wildfires that had been terrorizing the area suddenly made dramatic moves in their direction.

“We saw tornadoes of fire just coming across towards us, and the next thing we knew everything was on fire, everywhere, all around us,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

NBC continues:

Holmes said he sent his wife Tammy and their five grandchildren — who are aged between almost 2 and 11 —  to the jetty to seek refuge from the flames, which destroyed three homes owned by the family. “There was no other escape,” he added.

Holmes sent a text message to his daughter, Bonnie Walker,  showing her children in the water.

“It’s still quite an upsetting image,” Walker told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “It’s of all of my five children underneath the jetty, huddled up to neck deep sea water, which is cold. I knew that that would be a challenge to keep three non-swimmers above water and with only my mom, dad and our eldest daughter.”

At first the family merely sat on the dock as the air turned orange and the fires swirled all around them:

Holmes Family Escapes Tornadoes of Fire in Tasmania by Clinging to Dock, Jetty for Hours | Australia

In this Jan. 4, 2013, photo provided by the Holmes family the Walker siblings six-year-old Caleb, left, four-year-old Esther, second from left, eleven-year-old Matilda, holding two-year-old Charlotte, second from right, and nine-year-old Liam, right, prepare to enter the water to take refuge with their grandparents under a jetty as a wildfire rages nearby in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart, Australia. (Photo: AP)

Holmes Family Escapes Tornadoes of Fire in Tasmania by Clinging to Dock, Jetty for Hours | Australia

In this Jan. 4, 2013, photo provided by the Holmes family, the Walker siblings six-year-old Caleb, left, four-year-old Esther, second from left, nine-year-old Liam, and eleven-year-old Matilda, right, holding two-year-old Charlotte, prepare to enter the water to take refuge with their grandparents under a jetty as a wildfire rages nearby in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart, Australia. (Photo: AP)

But after the dock caught on fire:

Holmes Family Escapes Tornadoes of Fire in Tasmania by Clinging to Dock, Jetty for Hours | Australia

In this Jan. 4, 2013, photo provided by the Holmes family, a building burns near a jetty where Tim and Tammy Holmes attempt to shelter their five grandchildren as a wildfire rages nearby in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart, Australia. (AP)

The grandparents were forced to get in the water with the five children:

Holmes Family Escapes Tornadoes of Fire in Tasmania by Clinging to Dock, Jetty for Hours | Australia

In this Jan. 4, 2013, photo provided by the Holmes family, Tammy Holmes, second from left, and her grandchildren, two-year-old Charlotte Walker, left, four-year-old Esther Walker, third from left, nine-year-old Liam Walker, eleven-year-old Matilda, second from right, and six-year-old Caleb Walker, right, take refuge under a jetty as a wildfire rages near-by in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart, Australia. (Photo: AP)

Holmes Family Escapes Tornadoes of Fire in Tasmania by Clinging to Dock, Jetty for Hours | Australia

In this Jan. 4, 2013, photo provided by the Holmes family, Tammy Holmes and her grandchildren take refuge under a jetty as a wildfire rages nearby in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley, east of the state capital of Hobart, Australia. (Photo: AP)

“The difficulty was there was so much smoke and embers…there was probably 200 millimeters to 300 millimeters (8 to 12 inches) of air above the water,” Holmes told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Monday.

He continued: “So we were all just heads; water up to our chins just trying to breathe because it was just – the atmosphere was so incredibly toxic.”

After roughly three hours, Holmes located a dinghy and used it to ferry the family to safety.

“I spent a lot of time with good friends and prayed like I never prayed before, and I think those prayers have been answered,” the children’s mother said.

NBC has all the stunning pictures and video, including an interview with the family after the made it out safely:

(H/T: Gawker)

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