Looking back on 2020: Colin Brennan was the light in the dark at Nerrigundah

THIS IS HOME: Colin and Jacob Brennan, father and son, at their Nerrigundah home which was destroyed by bush fire on New Year's Eve.
THIS IS HOME: Colin and Jacob Brennan, father and son, at their Nerrigundah home which was destroyed by bush fire on New Year's Eve.

When violent flames battered the doors of a NSW Far South Coast fire shed on New Year's Eve, the 12 people inside struggled to see through the darkness.

It was pitch black, and the Nerrigundah shed's roller shutter door was losing the battle against the "cylone-like" blaze.

The darkness, however, was nothing new for Colin "Cole" Brennan, who is legally blind, and he moved around the shed with ease.

While RFS members took turns leaning against the door, Mr Brennan mixed fire retardant with water and sloshed it on the floor to stop embers coming underneath.

The sprinkler system installed on the shed also helped, and Nerrigundah RFS brigade captain Ron Threlfall thanked Mr Brennan for getting the pump started.

"He could run rings around most people because once he knows where things are, he's fine," Mr Threlfall said.

"He used to be our pump operator years ago. You can trust him to be on the pump. He managed to get it started."

Nerrigundah is about 20 kilometres inland from the Princes Highway, Bodalla.

Nerrigundah is about 20 kilometres inland from the Princes Highway, Bodalla.

Cole would not take the credit for it, however, and said he just did "normal things".

"I suss things out before I go, I have a white stick - I call it the 'bumper bar'," he said.

The Nerrigundah community are still coming to terms with what happened that day.

Out of about 30 properties, most were burnt, including Cole's. "It's an eerie feeling in the valley. It's like a nuclear winter," he said.

He now lives on the property in a caravan with his wife, and son, Jacob, who camps next to him.

Now without satellite internet, much of his connection to the outside world is lost.

He rarely left his home before, and relied on satellite radio stations for information.

He said the satellite service, a composting toilet and cheaper rubbish disposal would help him move forward.

And perhaps some new pearly whites: "I've got no teeth, they're in there somewhere, sitting on the amenity basin if you can find them," he laughed.

Cole renovated the closed Nerrigundah Public School and turned it into a home. He added his own sound studio, which went up in smoke, along with valuable guitars and LP vinyl records.

The height charts of his children, grandchildren and audio tapes holding family memories were also destroyed.

Even the Christmas pudding and some silverside Mr Brennan had cooked on their brand new spit would be missed, he and Jacob laughed.

"Life was sweet, life was nice, but fire took it all," Cole said.

"There's a melancholy in it. There are memories there. (But now) they're just wires hanging on a pole, or crumbling brick."

He had been offered to stay elsewhere, but Nerrigundah was his home. "Here we can have a place, it's like a campsite now, like we're on holidays," he said.

Once he had toilets, wash facilities and water storage, he could then start designing something more permanent.

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This story Cole's special skills were a light in the dark first appeared on Bay Post-Moruya Examiner.