Through the Smoke: Miracle Stories From the Australian Bushfires

The fires that have torn through the Australian landscape in recent weeks are without doubt the most widespread natural disaster in our nation’s living memory. Fellow Australians are hurting as they grieve the loss of properties, livelihoods and loved ones.

Yet in the flames and through the smoke, there is hope, and evidence of God at work. The generosity of friends and strangers, the Australian spirit of mateship, and the reminder of what’s truly precious in life all speak to the presence of God in the midst of tragedy.

Most profound of all, perhaps, are the mysterious stories that are coming in from all across the country. The Mallacoota miracle, for example, went viral when the BBC broadcast a local’s riveting account of it around the globe.

You can read about this miracle below, along with other stories of supernatural survival that have taken place across Australia since the fires began. As Aussies, we can be reluctant to talk about faith. But when miracles happen—especially in the midst of tragedy—we can’t help but sit up and pay attention.

One disclaimer before you read on: there is no hidden message of either judgment or favouritism in these stories. The Good Book tells us to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. We may never know why some people lost it all and others were protected. But we know that those who have suffered need our care and support.

With that being said, at the dawn of this new decade, there has been an unusual outbreak of supernatural activity right here in Australia. We are a nation in need of good news. So be encouraged by these great news stories.


A stranger saves a family from a firestorm
Andrew, Lake Conjola NSW

Not all angels have wings. This first story was shared on Hope 103.2, a radio station based out of Western Sydney. Andrew, a father of four, explains that he and his sister’s families—eleven people in all—were rescued by boat at the last minute by a complete stranger.

Camping on the banks of Lake Conjola on New Year’s Eve, they had been told of approaching fires up to 100 kilometres away. They had reassured themselves that the winds would change long before the fires were anywhere near them.

At 11.59am, they were shocked to see the glow of flames on the hilltops nearby. In less than ten minutes, the group was surrounded by fire on all sides.

At that moment, Andrew explains that “a boat pulled up in front of us… [a man] was just yelling to us, ‘run to the jetty, run to the jetty’, and so we ran to the jetty and jumped in his boat and he took off.”

Escaping across the lake with just the clothes on their backs, they turned around at 12.09pm to see their cars and caravan burst into flames. Brett, the man who rescued them, had fled by boat with his dad, having just watched his own house burn down minutes earlier.

The timing for this rescue couldn’t have been better orchestrated. Read more about Andrew’s story here.


Half-finished house spared in “unexplained protected zone”
Hazel, Kangaroo Valley NSW

I just got off the phone to Hazel. Hazel’s daughter owns property on a knoll amongst the scrub, near Kangaroo Valley in NSW’s Shoalhaven region. Her daughter had been building a new home, but the project had stalled earlier in the summer due to the threat of fires.

When that threat turned to red-hot reality on January 4, Hazel’s daughter along with her young family fled to save their lives, leaving everything to the mercy of the flames. Unable to set even a sprinkler going for protection, they expected to return to an ash heap.

At the same time as this, Hazel explains, a local church had gathered to pray for everyone in the region. A friend of Hazel’s daughter received a vision of angels dressed as fire-fighters, spraying water in the shape of a large dome to protect her half-finished house.

Because of its remote location, the RFS were unable to defend the property from the ground or the air.

Days later, when firefighters were able to access the house in the wake of the blaze, it took them ten hours to hack through fallen trees. What they discovered was ash-covered soil still too hot to stand on, “like being on the rim of a volcano”, and burnt-out trees all around—some still glowing white.

But the house with its timber-framed roof was not even singed, and the plastic tank was still fully intact. A local who helped the fireys at the property described an “unexplained protected zone” all around the house.

There doesn’t seem to be a natural explanation for these events, but Hazel and her daughter don’t hesitate in giving God the credit.


Prayer shifts the winds in Mallacoota
David, Mallacoota VIC

David became the face of Australia for a few hours when the BBC, ABC and Sky News shared his self-filmed account of a miracle all around the world.

The events took place on New Year’s Eve, in the small coastal hamlet of Mallacoota in Victoria’s East Gippsland. As the firewall drew close, four thousand holiday makers, along with many locals, were forced to flee to the town’s wharf near the beach.

David describes the moment when they all found themselves trapped on the shore:

“We could hear the roar. It was like a monster bearing down on us… It went black as black. The smoke was so thick it was hard to breathe.”

Some were even getting ready to jump in the water to escape the flames.

Knowing that the only hope of survival would be a strong east wind to push back against the approaching fire, David gathered with two other “prayer warriors” to ask God for a miracle.

As soon as they began praying, he says, the wind

“started blowing from the east a little bit… I felt it change. I noticed that the bolder I got, the stronger [the wind got]. I was yelling, ‘In Jesus’ name, thank you Lord for rescuing these souls. Push it back Lord, rescue us!’”

For five minutes the easterly blew, breaking the fire-front enough to stop it from reaching the throngs of people at the foreshore. “God saved us” is how David’s neighbours—who are not Christians—described the event.

Despite hot embers flying into dry grass in his neighbourhood, the entire street that David lives on was spared. “There were no burn marks. There is honestly not a blade of grass singed,” he says.

David Jeffery reflects on the event now in the hope that it will help people “realise that there is a God and He does love them,” and that “it’s time for people to rise up and pray… [and] get serious about God and get back into reading His word.”

Read more of David’s story here.


The fire stopped at the foot of a large cross
Lorelle, Cobargo NSW

Soon after fires ripped through Cobargo on the NSW South Coast, Vision Radio received a call from Lorelle. She gave an eye-opening description of what happened to a couple—good friends of hers—who survived the inferno in this small rural village.

Like many brave Aussies, the couple decided to stay and defend their home. But then in the middle of the night, the noise of the approaching fires grew so terrifying that they were forced to flee.

Two days later, they returned home in grief, expecting to find everything gone. To their surprise, the fire had stopped at the foot of a wooden cross, leaning up against the shed. It’s a cross that they carry down the main street of Cobargo on Good Friday to commemorate the death of Jesus.

On reaching the cross, the fire had evidently burnt around the shed and right up to the edge of the house, singing only a bit of grass and garden. When they fled, the couple had left the sprinklers going on the house, but provided no protection for the shed.

They can’t explain why the fires didn’t consume the timber shed, or indeed everything on their property. Listen to Lorelle’s call here.


It was like he had a dome over his house
Michael, Wingello NSW

Michael is a volunteer firefighter from the little town of Wingello, located at the halfway point between Sydney and Canberra in the NSW Southern Highlands.

Coincidentally, the name Wingello comes from a local Indigenous word which means ‘to burn’. Wingello is no stranger to fire, having survived an inferno in the 60s that claimed three lives and dozens of homes.

Michael explains that a fire had been burning for weeks in adjacent national parks. “It was like a sleeping giant,” he says. But the giant awoke on January 4 when an enormous pyrocumulus cloud, caused by the park blazes, began raining fire on nearby scrub.

Michael was posted with a crew protecting the local fire station, while his wife Helen and other family fled their property. After a long and anxious wait, fellow firefighters who had been out protecting properties returned to the station at 1am with harrowing news for Michael. “We’re so sorry. We tried to save your house but it’s gone.”

The next morning another patrol passed Michael’s property and were “gobsmacked” to find his house in fact still standing. As Michael and Helen arrived back at their home, a battle-hardened firey remarked, “You guys must have some Jesus juice. I need some of that.”

“We are people of faith,” Michael explained to me over the phone. “We’ve had our house blessed, and we’ve always tried to live a good prayer life. We really believe we’ve been spared. We credit our Lord for this miracle.”

Michael’s front garden and workshop were burnt to a crisp. But he is relieved to describe his house in different terms. “The fire raced towards the front of our house but miraculously burnt around it… there are burn lines right up to the front door and even to the back door.”

The Sydney Morning Herald recorded the words of the local RFS captain who said of Michael and Helen’s home, “There’s a miracle one… I pulled my blokes out, it was an overrun, but it was like he had a dome over his house.”

Check out Wingello Village Store’s account of the miracle here.


My neighbour arrived just in time to save my house
Ainsley, Cudlee Creek SA

Cudlee Creek is ten minutes from where I grew up, in a steep and gully nook of the Adelaide Hills. I heard of Ainsley’s story through her fiancé, whom I personally know.

Ainsley explains that her next door neighbour Eric was in Melbourne for short-term work. He finished his last job and, exhausted, couldn’t bring himself to drive the eight hours back home as he’d originally planned.

But for some unexplained reason, Eric felt he should set his alarm for 4am the next morning to drive home. So there he was, in the dead of night, embarking on the long journey back, not quite knowing why.

He arrived home in Cudlee Creek just after the fires had broken out on the afternoon of December 20. His mode of transport happened to be a water truck with a full 6000-litre tank and a power hose!

He arrived at Ainsley’s property the moment it had caught on fire. He fought the blaze and managed to save Ainsley’s house along with another neighbour’s property, all the while protecting his own home, wife and four kids.

Eric is unquestionably one of Australia’s many great heroes of these last months. But he’ll be the first to admit he had divine help.


Fires burnt right up to our fence lines
Donna, Mount Torrens SA

Just down the road from Cudlee Creek, good friends of mine own a small hobby farm at Mount Torrens, also in the Adelaide Hills. I arrived home from the USA just days after the Cudlee Creek fire tore through, and Donna’s was the first miracle story I heard—the first of many that motivated me to reach out around Australia for more.

Donna and her husband and daughter fled their property soon after seeing smoke billowing on the horizon. They were forced to leave behind pets and livestock. Donna recounts,

“As we drove out of our driveway on the day of the fire, we prayed for angels to protect the borders.”

She continues:

“We stayed away in the city til the next day and as I woke the next morning, the very first thought I had in that sleepy place of not quite even knowing where you are, was this: ‘The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them’.”

Donna knew this was a verse from the Bible but had to look it up to discover where it was from—Psalm 34:7.

When they returned early the next afternoon, they were surprised to find that fires had burnt right up to their fence lines on multiple sides of the property. There were small exceptions to this, such as a charred watering trough, a burnt top paddock, and some melted plastic roof sheeting. But all of the animals survived. And the neatness of the burn lines is what make’s Donna’s story so incredible.

In an effort to track down similar stories, I posted Donna’s photo to my timeline. It was met with many incredulous comments from strangers, such as this one:

“A fire doesn’t advance perfectly straight like that, the pine posts normally go up like Roman candles. The fence wires are still new and spotless with no smoke damage. Something has intervened…”

The paddocks in question are very hard to access, Donna explains. They would be a highly unusual and near-impossible site for a CFS back-burn operation, especially in a fire driven by such high winds. Something—or someone—clearly did intervene.

Afterword

As I compiled these stories, so many more miracles were told to me that space won’t permit. Even online you can find out about the miraculous wind change at Taree; the Moruya man who found his house still standing; and even an apparent devil face that appeared in a wall of flames.

I heard from strangers of fire stopping at a gate that had a Scripture written on it; of dozens of houses surviving amidst a sea of ash; and even of an elderly woman who lost everything, whose grandson was walking down the main street of that fire-scorched town when the wind blew a sheet of paper into his leg. It was a charred page from a Bible—Isaiah 64:11-12—and it read:

“Our holy and glorious temple, where our ancestors praised You, has been burned with fire,
and all that we treasured lies in ruins. After all this, Lord, will You hold Yourself back? Will You keep silent and punish us beyond measure?”

I don’t dare make judgments on behalf of God in the midst of such tragedy. There is so much still unexplained, when some lost everything, and others were miraculously spared.

But through the smoke, God is trying to get our attention. “For God so loved the world.” It’s a verse we all know. God loves Australia, this “Great Southland of the Holy Spirit”. And He is calling our nation back to Himself, waiting for us to respond.

Do you have a miracle story from the Australian bushfires? If you do, would you consider sharing it below?

By |2020-01-21T12:15:31+11:00January 16th, 2020|Australia, Authors, Faith, Safety & Security|6 Comments

About the Author:

Kurt Mahlburg is a qualified primary school teacher and a freelance writer. He blogs at Culture, Worldviews and Life with Jesus, besides writing for the Canberra Declaration and occasionally The Spectator Australia.

He has a particular interest in speaking the truths of Jesus into the public square in a way that makes sense to a secular culture and that gives Christians courage to do the same.

Kurt has also studied architecture, has lived for two years on a remote island in Indonesia, is fluent in several Indonesian languages, and among his other interests are philosophy, history, surf, the outdoors, and travel.

6 Comments

  1. Anne Riddell January 17, 2020 at 4:02 pm - Reply

    Hi, Kurt:
    These are wonderful stories of God’s protection and deliverance. However, I also saw the story of the charred Bible and I believe that this comes out of a fire in the US – see attached link. Still no less miraculous – just not the Australian bushfires.
    https://wpde.com/news/local/familys-bible-survives-christmas-eve-fire-in-socastee

    • Kurt Mahlburg January 21, 2020 at 12:16 pm - Reply

      Hi Anne, thank you for pointing this out! I’ve now amended the article.

  2. Stefanie January 18, 2020 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Hi Kurt, sure. In a nutshell, I usually take a day or two per week to fast and pray for whatever intention the Holy Spirit puts on my heart. On 18th Dec my facebook friend (we have never met) Andrew Purchase put out the following message: Hey FB friends. We are currently in line with a massive fire ( the size of Wales ) thats predicted to hit us tomorrow. 40′ degree heat coupled with very strong southerly will likely press the fire into our area and property. We just had the fireman come to our home and others on our road which out of town and near the fire. They are worried we could either be caught in the fire or cut of as there is only one road in and out. We’ve been told to pack and prepare for quick evacuation early tomorrow. So prayers appreciated. Much love peeps 🙏🏽🌧💦” – so I put his family and his property on my prayer list. 88 other facebook friends also prayed. That day the winds changed and DIDN’T blow the fire into the property. Andrew wrote: “Huge amounts of smoke and we’ve been surrounded by fire, fire trucks, fireman and helicopters. The amazing thing is when the strong winds that come to push the fire into us eg north west then southerlies, yet some how they were held back. The fire people said it was most unusual. So thank you for your prayers. I believe they had an impact.” On Christmas Eve, he and his wife Haidie were about to go and do some Christmas shopping when their plans had to change because a fire front was again threatening the property from the north. They prayed while fighting fires for the next few days. Then they were finally evacuated as the situation was classified as ‘catastrophic’. After a few days as evacuees, they returned, and again, found the fire had spared their property, but almost as soon as they were home, a fire broke out near their home again which drew 4 fire trucks and numerous fire bombing attempts from the air. Again, the property was saved. By NYE we all thought the fight was over. During my prayer times, I had received a visual message which showed their home completely surrounded by fire and even squeezed by fire on all sides (the picture was cartoon like and the house was squeezable). Between the fire fronts and the walls of the house were huge white angelic creatures that were bending with the squeezing, but not letting the fire touch the house. On the roof of the house I saw the glory of God. The holy spirit said to me: “The fire inside the home will be of a completely different type: it will be of me.” I made a very bad sketch of this picture so that I would remember it. Shortly after this, all hell broke loose at Andrew’s place. Here is his account: “our NYE relief was short lived as below us a huge fireball went off and tore through the forest closing the road and our way of escape and sadly burnt several large and beautiful homes to the ground. It was downwind, we encouraged ourselves but only shortly as behind us our own fire began. I checked it out with my father in law Bob and it looked like the other fires we’d seen previously, slow and manageable. But we were wrong. Very quickly things began to escalate. Large amounts of smoke with lots of dark and red in it. I got the hose ready to protect the shed where we live in a studio apartment. We have been there whilst I have been fighting some very big health challenges: an organ eating lupus and a quadruple bypass. Slowly I’ve been recovering and had some better and encouraging results.
    Haidie yelled out from her parents house to bring the hose up as the fire had got very serious. I gathered the hose up as fast as I could and walked up the steep incline to their house and suddenly 80m to the left I saw a wall of flame pouring down the hill. Suddenly it became very real. As I went to go round the back of the house the side gardens exploded into flame so I worked at putting that out but as I looked at the elevated paddock behind and above their house a river of fire streamed across, over and down it came and then down into the gardens and trees, which are right behind the house, they then burst into flames. Bob was down the other end of the house where there was a lot more trees and I was in the middle of the house where there were high vines and large shrubs, all about the height of the roof and although they’d been trimmed back they were still dense with lots of undergrowth. Basically everything started to catch on fire and burn fast but we were just keeping on top of it. Inside the house was Haidie’s 95 year old grandfather, her mother and herself. Soon I couldn’t breathe properly even through a mask. I yelled at Haidie through the window to bring me a wet tea towel. I put that over my mask to stop the smoke, it gave some relief until very strong southerly winds began to blow and whip the fire up into very large flames which took off, filling the little confined area with large flames and very intense smoke. I could hardly breathe and definitely couldn’t see. I just had to hang in there and point the hose toward the fire until the smoke broke a bit. Haidie raced down to bring me some water but was driven backby the intense heat and pain in her lungs from the smoke. Both her and mother really began to pray .[Andrew told me that they prayed for Angels on the roof in particular.] The flames were now getting into the high parts of the trees and Bob’s end started to go out of control and I couldn’t see him and I was a bit worried and started to move down to his end to help. Unbeknown to me a rural fire small truck had pulled up at the gate. Bob raced down like he ‘d done a couple days ago to let the big trucks in but the guy had only a small vehicle and was pulling in to let him know the fire was getting out of control. Bob thanked him and he sped off up the road and Bob sped back to the fire which was now really taking off and filling the tops of the trees. The hose could only reach or contain it at that level and the smoke was beyond belief. Fire was literally running up the trees and they were shuddering making high pitch noises. It was quite incredible to see & hear! I worked with Bob protecting the northern end as best we could. Haidie later told me the windows were so hot she couldn’t touch them. Between the southerly and us we pushed the fire north away from the home, to a small grove of tree near the road and it would appear there was a convergence of fires from other directions and created so much heat that the yellow and red council bins that were on the road vapourised leaving only the axles.

    At this point the house was protected enough and my lungs were on fire from the smoke. This took around 40 minutes I believe. I raced inside and bent over the sink heaving. Haidie opened the freezer and covered me with packets of frozen peas and vegetables and yelled at me to drink glasses of water. I was able to refocus a couple of minutes later and then raced down to the shed to protect it as it had all our worldly possessions. To my amazement while we were fighting the back of the house the fire had gone around the other side and completely burned the chicken shed and sadly the chickens and all the ground between the house and the shed and a cattle yard. It was all on fire or had been burnt. Yet it hadn’t touched the shed. Covered in smoke and ash but still ok. I connected up the hoses and made sure everything was wet and went around the front. As a fire front was coming up the hill and the shed was in its path. Amazingly my car was largely untouched so I grabbed a seat and watered the car and watched the last of the trees explode. I really wish I’d had phone or camera at this point as the trees and particularly the fur pine tree’s literally went off like bombs! I could feel their waves of heat and power push me back even though they were around 60-70 metres away, they exploded and were gone in a second. I went to help our neighbors but the hose stopped working as the power lines finally went down. It was so fortunate to have lasted that long. Later as we drove along the road you could see many of the power poles had fallen over or been badly burnt. Personally to do what I was able to do despite having such a compromised system especially my lungs, was nothing short of a miracle. I did find out a number of people had been praying and some very specifically not only for our protection but also our property. I believe this was key.”

  3. Sharon January 19, 2020 at 11:43 pm - Reply

    Awesome true accounts of Godly intervention through prayers and the leading/ discernment of the Holy Spirit. Thanks Kurt for compiling these. Thanks also to Stefanie for posting Andrew’s descriptive detail – so intense – it was like “being there” with the fire all around. Key verse is worth repeating “The Angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them.” Psalm 34:7. Lots of Christians were also praying for their properties during the bushfires and citing Psalm 91 i.e. vs 1-2 “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” and vs 9-11 “If you say, “The LORD is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;”

  4. Kurt January 21, 2020 at 11:53 am - Reply

    Another story courtesy of Jackie in NSW:

    My friends living near Batemans bay received a text message New year’s eve to urgently evacuate. They only had time to grab their dog and drove out with fire burning on both sides of the road.

    They evacuated to the beach from where they watched the fires burn down to the beach. They heard gas bottles exploding

    and knew many homes burnt as black plumes of smoke meant another house gone.

    Miraculously when they were able to return
    to their property, they found part of their land had not burned and all their alpacas and sheep and hens had survived. Even more amazing was that the fire had licked one side of their house, with one window shattered and one curtain burnt. But thanks be to God, the rest of their home was untouched.

    Praise God for his protection!

  5. Monica Bennett-Ryan February 4, 2020 at 2:19 pm - Reply

    Oh, I love testimony. Our God is an awesome God, who would not want to praise Him.

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