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Vic: Residents return to Kinglake fire horror

By Xavier La Canna
11 Feb 2009 5:01 PM

KINGLAKE, Vic, Feb 11 AAP - Farmer Charles Exton knows more about potatoes than bombs, but he has no doubt about what he saw as the hellish inferno rolled through Pheasant Creak on Saturday.

"There were explosions from fuel tanks and gas bottles," he told AAP.

"You are seeing them first around you and it was like we were being bombed - like a war zone."

Mr Exton, 55, was one of many who lost nearly everything in Saturday's inferno when his property near Kinglake and sections of Victoria was reduced to ashes.

"I lost my own house and the house next door to my mum's, all my farm machinery, the packing sheds and equipment," he said.

"When I go back, I just can't believe that my father worked for over 70 years here, and it's just gone."

In Kinglake on Wednesday many got to see their devastated properties for the first time.

A Country Fire Authority commander said the townsfolk were in shock and disarray, but remained staunch despite their ordeal.

John Duthie, 40, said the sound of the approaching fire was like jumbo jets flying at full throttle.

He described the eerie feeling when the haze blacked out the sun.

"It was pitch black at 4.30 in the afternoon," Mr Duthie said.

"Gas bottles were exploding, cars were exploding. Every five or 10 minutes, there was an almighty huge boom like a car bomb."

His partner Madeleine (Madeleine) Jablonski, 33, said the town was gripped by panic when the threat level became fully apparent and her neighbour's son became hysterical.

"He came down the road and freaked, totally freaked," she said.

"He said `the town is on fire, cars are burning, there is no CFA and we have got to run'."

Another Kinglake resident Janeden River, 44, said he felt almost guilty to have survived the fire when so many had lost their lives.

"The sky went black and it was like an instant eclipse. I piled the wife and the little guy in the car and we took off," Mr River said.

"I walked in yesterday and you could see that if we went in the other direction, we would be dead."

AAP xlc/gfr/jfm/jlw