They lost everything in the Mogo fire, but found the kindness of strangers in a coastal carpark.
Leah Milston and David Wallace arrived in Tomakin at 6.30am on New Year's Eve, full of adrenalin and fear for the home and business they had fled.
Almost immediately, Sue and John Jackson approached them.
"They asked if we needed to use a toilet," Mr Wallace said.
The talented photographer could decline that offer, but not the next.
"I can never knock back a cup of tea," he said.
The Jackson's hoovered up about 10 evacuees and fed, housed and watered them with "numerous bottles of wine" for the next two days, without electricity.
"They were absolutely perfect; He (Mr Jackson) actually gave me the shirt off his back," Mr Wallace said.
"We would not have known what to do. They are wonderful people."
In the Shire-wide blackout, Tomakin Sport and Social Club also stepped up, powered up the generator and turned on free food for evacuees.
"They did an excellent job; they cooked bacon and eggs," Mr Wallace said.
"If everybody was like that the whole time, all the communities would be wonderful. You have to have a disaster to find out who all the good people are."
READ MORE: Images of loss in Mogo
Their lives changed from holiday to hell in 12 hours.
"We had only just come back from Nepal the night before," Mr Wallace said.
"We got to Mogo at 6pm and at 6am we got the text (warning from RFS). We had one suitcase each still packed from the holiday. It was so very little.
"We did not have internet or telephones, there was no communication."
Then came the surreal moment when Mr Wallace climbed a hill and got enough reception to download a message from the other side of the world.
"I had an email from a person in Kathmandu who knew more abut what was happening than I did," he said.
The day was spent fearing for their home and Leah's much-loved book and toy shop, Milston's Past and Present.
"We were looking in the direction of Mogo and it was getting redder and redder and we decided it has gone," Mr Wallace said.
Then someone told them they had seen a picture of their gutted premises. They confirmed it for themselves on New Year's Day.
READ MORE: One family's race against flame and fear
"We thought we would be just in tears, but it is so unreal," Mr Wallace said.
"It did not look like our house. It collapsed into almost nothing. Leah's books crumbled in your hand, it was powder. The heat must have been incredible.
"She loves books. She bought books, I built shelves. She was always surprised when I said go ahead and get more books."
A heart-wrenching loss is Ms Milston's grandfather's 1930 journal and all her memorabilia from parents and grandparents.
"My grandfather was secretary to the NSW Minister of Transport," she said.
"He went on a boat for 10 months and typed a journal. It was leather-bound done by hand, very historical and personal. It was hundreds of pages."
Of a "certain young cricketer called Bradman", he was "not very complimentary".
"You can't go and buy a copy," Ms Milston said.
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Inevitably, the collector questions her choices of what to take in the five-minute window.
"My daughter said 'I wished you had saved the candlesticks'," she said.
"My parents were both in war and we had a set of medals.
"I thought we were coming back. We knew it was serious, but we thought we would be back in the afternoon."
Womanly regrets are delivered with best-effort post-evacuation humour.
"I (fled with) one bra; I am a woman who has three drawers full of bras," Ms Milston said.
"I have so few clothes, it is good. I have gone from being a hoarder to someone who can put everything I own into one bag."
That's a slim upside.
"That bookshop was my life for 14 years," she said.
"It feels like a dream, a nightmare, you wake up in the morning and look up and hope you are going to be back in my bed and surrounded by books.
"But we have each other. (The Jackson's) hugged us. I got more hugs from strangers than I have had in my lifetime. You start talking; you are all in the same boat."
The kindness flows both ways. When fellow evacuees learned their home was saved, Ms Milston did not want to break the news about her own place.
"I was happy for them; I did not want them to feel bad," she said.
Even in their Tomakin haven, they knew fear.
"At one stage in the afternoon we thought we were gone," Ms Milston said.
"It came over and was so close."
After a nine-hour smoky trip, the couple is now in Canberra at Ms Milston's daughter's home, worried for Mr Wallace's daughter and two children who have been evacuated from Jindabyne.
"We have five children between us. They were fraught. My daughter even contacted (Eden-Monaro MP) Mike Kelly to see if they could find anyone.
In Canberra, "we got the biggest hugs and welcome".
Now, with Jindabyne under threat on January 4, they fear another family member will lose everything.
They are worried for neighbours who lost everything, including artist John Sharman, potters Peter and Vanessa Williams and Gaspar at Mogo Leathergoods and Repairs. Mogo Village Honey lost their home and business, but in a quirk of fate "the chickens survived", Mr Wallace said.
Ms Milston is also grateful Mr Wallace saved her computer, at the cost of his own desktop. She can now continue her voluntary work as a peer supporter for BeyondBlue.
Mr Wallace knew he was observing history and like the professional he is, took pictures.
When he gets another computer with Photoshop, the world will have a record.
"In 10 years time, people will have forgotten," he said.