If they faced a normal bushfire the three men who died in the Currowan Bushfire may have survived.
However, the fire that took the lives of Yatte Yattah residents Laurie Andrews, 70, and John Butler (senior), 75, along with Sussex Inlet man Michael Campbell, 69, all on December 31, 2019 was not normal, an inquiry into the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires was told on Monday, September 27.
The NSW coroner is holding the inquiry and was told the Currowan bushfire was not your average fire.
"It would roar, belch and consume everything in its path," the inquiry was told.
"In simple terms, the Currowan fire was a beast."
Laurie, John and Michael were in the beast's path.
Detective Senior Constable Natalie Burston from the NSW Police Arson Unit appeared on day 13 of the inquiry on Monday and was asked about the deaths of all three men.
She was also asked about investigations into the cause of the fire, with a lightning strike being the likely cause.
Police believe Mr Butler was trying to escape the fire when his vehicle struck a tree and he was overcome by fire.
Detective Burston said this view was further strengthened when she went to the scene and looked at where Mr Butler lived.
The detective also formed the view that Mr Andrews knew his property well because he had lived there so long and had built all the structures
She also agreed Laurie was familiar with the geography around him
"He knew the fire was coming - like most people in that community and had some week to prepare," Detective Burtson said.
"So he put in additional sprinklers and had done additional land clearing around his property."
The detective agreed that Mr Andrews had taken steps to make sound and sensible property-saving arrangements.
The 62-year-old Michael Campbell lived in Sussex Inlet on a bush block in a small caravan.
Little is known about his movements on December 31.
He was later found dead inside his car.
It's suggested he took shelter in the car but did not attempt to drive away.
Family members will get the chance to deliver statements on Wednesday when the hearing continues
Meanwhile, Detective Burston told the hearing electricity assets were discounted as a cause of the fire and told the hearing that there are no power poles in Mines Road - the area of the fire's origin
A mound displaced soil was identified as the fire's point of origin with evidence of fire moving away from the mound.
She confirmed several experts found the fire started due to a lightning strike.
A damaged tree was also used to suggest there was a lightning strike.
She was asked to explain an image of the damaged tree.
"It [the image] does show the tree has been damaged, possibly by lightning and most likely by lightning as it has two of its quite large limbs removed or have fallen from the main structure of the tree. They were on the ground with signs of charring on the ends."
A drone image was also presented to the hearing. It was also noted the limbs were burnt and the tree was not.
Detective Burston said it would be correct to hypothesise that the lightning strike hit the tree and then grounded in the mound.
The hearing was told lighting strike collection database from the RFS showed "a few related strikes" particularly for relevant locations, times and dates
A relevant strike was shown and dated for November 25, 2019.
Detective Burston said the data was a great starting point to use in investigations. She added crime scene investigation would also be carried out as well.
No other evidence of the starting point and cause of the fire has been identified,
Triple Zero calls of the fire came in the next day - 15 hours after the likely ignition at 10.47 pm on November 25
The delay did not surprise Detective Burston.
"Because of the nature of where the ignition turns out, it would have been protected by the fact it was in a gully and there were other things that come into play with that as well," she said.
She mentioned the dipping of nighttime temperatures and the strike might have remained smouldering until hotter conditions were able to fuel the fire and cause it to spread to a size where it would have become visible for people to see.
"It's not a populated area and would have had to get to some size because of the nature around it before people would have noticed it," she said.
The terrain also made it difficult for firefighters
"It took them a while to locate where the fire was and once they located it was very difficult for them to get into the area where it had spread so it was quite a considerable size before it was identified and located,' she said.
The fire, as it gained momentum, was described by the RFS as being extreme and abnormal and Detective Burston said she had no reason to disagree with this description.
Some suspicious activity that hindered the firefighter's activity is currently in front of courts, the detective said.
The hearing was told how the Currowan Bushfire created its weather pattern on four occasions.
The hearing continues and is also looking into the Tianjara, Clyde Mountain and Morton bushfires.
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