Debbie home and relieved

Debbie Matthews (right) with Rachel McDermott in Batlow on Friday.

Batlow resident Debbie Matthews wasn’t taking any chances when it became clear that her home town was in the path of a potentially deadly bushfire.

“I left on Monday last week, so I was well and truly gone by the time it hit,” she said.

Debbie went to stay with relatives in Tumut and then in Junee.

She was later joined by her daughter and grandchildren (aged five, four and five months), also Batlow residents.

Her husband stayed behind.

“He was busy down here and we had to wait until we could contact him,” she said.

“We were very worried.”

As it turned out, they had good reason to be worried, as the fire came within two metres of their Cherry Lane home.

“We found out on Sunday morning that the house was safe,” Debbie said.

Debbie has lived in Batlow for 30 years.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” she said.

Nor does she want to ever again.

“No thank you,” she said.

One of the hardest parts was trying to convince the grandchildren that everything was okay.

“We tried to keep everything as normal, but even though they’re young, they know when things aren’t,” she said.

Like many fellow Batlow residents, Debbie returned to the town on Wednesday night, relieved their home had survived.