It's been a little more than a year since Thomas Eveans lost everything.
On that hot day in November 8, Mr Eveans said the wall of flame was like a fuel-air explosive, crowning at about three times treetop height. It came on from three sides. His home, directly on the edge of dense bush in bone-dry New England, was doomed.
The Torrington koolie breeder saved just a handful of personal items minutes ahead of the flames - and saved his own skin.
He lost nearly everything else, from mementos of his 18th birthday to a stamp collection, his grandad's medals, medallions he'd been collecting for his daughter, vehicles and the life of one of his dogs.
The sky was black as he fled.
He also lost the sense that his community was safe.
A year after the Black Summer, the ruins have been cleared away across the New England and Mr Eveans has the ingredients to start the process of rebuilding. But the shadows of the flames still linger in communities across the state. And few have confidence the recommendations of state inquiries or federal royal commissions will actually deliver a safer community next major fire season.
The village of Torrington was hit head-on by one of 17 emergency-level fires blazing out of control throughout NSW. November 8 was the busiest day of the country's worst-ever fire season.
In the aftermath, governments provided little aid outside cleaning up the ruins of the two villages, locals say. Most residents received a $1000 bushfire relief support payment and little else. Private charities were the biggest help.
Some, like Louis Stoker, have taken matters into their own hands.
Most of his village of Wytaliba was destroyed that same afternoon, lost to the vicious Kangawalla blaze that also claimed two lives and injured a dozen more.
"It flash-flooded six bloody times," he said.
"I was sleeping on a mattress of pallets on the ground underneath a plastic tarp because the caravan was a bit too sweaty and claustrophobic.
"Then, of course, it decided it was going to rain. 'I'm not going to be a drought now, I'm going to be a flood'.
"I had the dogs loaded on the mattress and I was standing knee-deep in floodwater holding the mattress so they didn't get swept away. I looked at the heavens and said 'God, you've got a tremendous sense of humour!'"
But he's now rebuilt, in a fashion.
He lives in an Oodnadatta-style underground bunker: two rooms dug into the earth, covered by tin roof. It's cooler, and the structure hopefully won't burn next time, he said.
Like many in the little village, Mr Stoker is a private person.
"Leave me alone and I'll leave you alone. Basically, I don't want to be a burden on society. I'll feed myself and organise himself. Live and let live, mate."
Founded in the '70s as a hippie commune, the isolated village remains a bastion of counter culture.
Most of the small community was not insured - or even living in approved houses - last year. The only bridge was washed away several times in the same floods that inundated Mr Stoker's house.
He said the small alternative community had changed but it would always remain a place for oddballs.
But that change - some locals have predicted that it will shrink by as much as half - has had a direct financial impact on neighbour Phil Hine.
Mr Hine has spent the last of his savings. He's one of the lucky ones. In his area two of his neighbours are dead, and of 22 locals just six have stayed.
That means, for instance, his new house has no water connection. The local neighbourhood had paid for a private bore with water connection. With just a handful left they can't afford it.
"It's not an encouraging thing to be somewhere where 50 houses burnt down," he said.
The small community, is about 45 minutes away from Glen Innes by road. Last November, the RFS had several hundred RFS and firefighting volunteers in the town, but just two local trucks made it into the village ahead of the blaze.
The former solar worker said he doesn't have any confidence that the RFS has changed its spots since last year. His area is no safer than it was last November, he said.
"I would not rely upon our current fire brigade to help me in the next fire. I would simply have to just evacuate.
"It tried its best, but if you've only got two trucks you can only be in two places at the one time."
That's the view a large section of both Wytaliba and Torrington communities have expressed. Some locals say they will be personally better prepared next time, but few have confidence that the Bushfire Royal Commission, or the NSW Bushfire Inquiry, has spurred real change in firefighting at state or commonwealth level.
Residents of both communities called for better fire management practices in national parks, particularly more rapid, aggressive action against fires as they ignite.
That belief became one of the recommendations of the state bushfire inquiry. Residents of Torrington have also repeatedly asked for a 50-metre buffer zone cut around the village into woodlands surrounding them on all sides.
Other residents continue to experience the longer-lasting personal cost of the blazes.
Research published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in November confirmed the smoke generated by bushfires cost hundreds of lives across Australia. The health cost was most intense closest to the fires.
Wytaliba bushfire survivor Danielle Monks says some days her lungs are so bad she struggles to turn over in bed.
"I have trouble walking any distance over 100 metres. I have difficulty just doing anything that exerts me," she said.
"I know it's definitely shortened my life. I could die from this fire, but I didn't die in the fire."
Torrington's Thomas Eveans said that despite the challenges, people are gradually stitching their lives back together.
"The whole area, everyone I'm thinking around the place is still numb to a point and is still a bit angry and trying to get over things.
"People are still very, very much in that yesterday place."