While Matt Williams is the first to admit he was slightly removed from the most dangerous zone, his New Year's Eve photos capture the ominous, lava-sky ambience created by the fires on the south coast of NSW. In the brief interview below he references the chaos and confusion that reigned as the flames hemmed in locals and travellers alike, and the beach seemed like the safest place to be.

For the official South Coast Bushfire gofundme campaign please click here.

Where was the photo above taken?

The photo was taken at South Broulee beach looking back towards town / princes hwy. The photo was taken at approx10 am on New Year's Eve. I had set up a timelapse and the wind picked up enough to pretty much blow camera and tripod over.

What was the situation?

There were a few people down there. I’m not sure if the power was off yet but if not, it wasn’t too long after. The advice on the local ABC radio was for people in smaller towns to leave to bigger centres such as Batemans Bay or Moruya. Lots of people from the caravan park right behind these dunes were down there. A bloke told me that people had been sent down there to accommodate for the old folks home if it had to be evacuated. There was not too much information available really as everyone was not in direct contact with the fires. It was really hard to know how far away they were (local council lifeguards and surf lifesavers were helping with everything around the place).

What was the mood like amongst the beach crowd?

The mood was kinda everyone was in the dark. We didn’t know what was happening. Lots of people in the streets were wondering whether they should stay or go, the other beach in town had spot fires, which burnt up around 100 metres of vegetation on the beachfront. I rode down there and locals and holidaymakers were putting out the remaining spotfires with buckets. It was not until you went for a ride or drive the next day that you could actually see the fire was up on the highway and effected properties on the edge of town. No solid info was really available but the word was Mogo and other areas had been hit hard.

What were you doing there?

I live 500 metres from the beach there, on and off, so I was just down there over the whole summer whilst the fires had been going on further north. I had to drive the long way around to Sydney a few times, but the sense around seemed to be there was no real threat, even though a large chunk of bush 20-30 minutes away had been alight for quite some time.

For the gofundme campaign please click here.

Note: Coastal Towns are calling for all Australians to lend their support by planning a trip to the towns who have been robbed of their summer trade by the fires. As soon as you can, throw a board in the car and spend some bucks where local businesses really need it.