When Andrew Hawkins saw the towering smoke plume and heard the roar of the fire approaching his northwestern NSW property, he knew it was time to get out.
The shearer, who lives at the foot of Cow Mountain at Bugaldie near Coonabarabran, saw a "30,000 foot" smoke cloud on Sunday and heard the fire "roaring towards" him.
"I tried to get my sheep up the hill towards the grass flats but they didn't want to follow," he told AAP on Wednesday.
"I thought `if I don't go, I'm going to die like you'.
"It was flanking me on both sides."
For the next two days Mr Hawkins said he had butterflies in his stomach, couldn't eat and was praying for his sheep.
When he returned on Tuesday, his worst fears were realised.
Walking up to his house on Wednesday, which miraculously survived, the bodies of his chickens are bloated and black while at the back nine scorched ewes and a ram lie on the hillside.
Their bodies look like black statues that have been knocked sideways - but for the pink insides that have spilled out.
"I was wanting to get home to them," he says.
In Bugaldie, crumpled tin, burnt out tractors and warped iron gates mark the spots where homes used to be.
The ruins of at least five homes can be seen along one dirt track alone.
At one site, a rectangular iron lock is the only indication of where a front door once stood.
There are no photo frames, or signs of any personal items.
The ferocity of the blaze transformed aluminium cans into liquid metal.
Small patches of smoke continue to puff out of the ground, like hundreds of old campfires.
"I've been hearing trees fall down all night," Mr Hawkins says.