Rugby league legend loses home and forced to flee
RUGBY league legend Ron Coote has lost his home of 35 years in the bushfires and his wife was forced to jump in Lake Conjola to escape the flames.
The 75-year-old rugby great battled with hoses and water from his swimming pool to try and save his home on New Year's Eve, to no avail.
He said the fire was moving at lightning-fast speed and there was little he could do.
His wife, Robin, and their daughter and a couple of friends ran down to the lake and made a split-second decision to jump in.
"We got down on to the pontoon and the flames were there, it was really scary … and I jumped in. It was daytime, but it was pitch black," Mrs Coote told the Today Show.
In the end, Mrs Coote was saved by a passer-by on a jet ski after spending about an hour in the lake.
Mr Coote said the fire started up on the highway, about 2.5km from his home.
"It happened so quickly, all of a sudden on top of us," he said.
"We were defending there, we had fire hoses, pumps and had to use the water out of the swimming pool, then it got up into the eaves of those house … then she went up, mate."
He said he lost track of his wife and daughter when he was on the fire hoses.
"And I hear after, they had ran down to where the pontoon was, they had to jump in the lake, the three of them," he said.
"My daughter Natalie helped then all down … and they had to swim out and had to tread water."
His daughter's house, next door, was also lost destroyed, along with 50 other homes in Lake Conjola, on the NSW south coast.
Mr Coote, a former Australian representative rugby league player who played for South Sydney and the Eastern Suburbs, lost everything.
"It's a bit daunting of a morning when you get up and you have no clothes to put on," he said.
"We used to get up and go to the drawer to put something on and away you'd go, but unfortunately that's happened.
"That's life, you get on with it … we're not going to let this interfere with our great life we have down here."
Since then he has been unable to leave Lake Conjola to get supplies. He has been fortunate to get supplies from another family, but they are running out.
"We need food, we need to be able to leave here to get food, the shops have nothing, there is no water on the shelves. There is nothing in the shops," he said.
He said the locals were feeling "cut off" and "forgotten".
"I think it's just crazy that they're (the Government) doing that to us. We need to be able to go into town and come back if we have got to.
"The number one message is, the fires all the time that are coming never used to happen years ago.
"I think they've got to get back to the burning, not stopping everyone from burning the bush around the house so you can clear the house."
He says he plans to rebuild.