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.
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:
But after the dock caught on fire:
The grandparents were forced to get in the water with the five children:
“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:
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