Family Escapes Australian 'Tornadoes of Fire' by Clinging to Jetty for 3 Hours

As "tornadoes of fire" roared toward their home, the Holmes family fled and then jumped into the sea, clinging to a jetty for three hours to escape wildfires that have devastated Australia.

The blaze spread swiftly in the Tasmanian town of Dunalley, Tim Holmes said. "The next thing we knew everything was on fire, everywhere, all around us," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Holmes said he sent his wife Tammy and their five grandchildren -- who are aged between almost 2 and 11 --  to the jetty to seek refuge from the flames, which destroyed three homes owned by the family. "There was no other escape," he added.

Holmes sent a text message to his daughter, Bonnie Walker,  showing her children in the water.

"It's still quite an upsetting image," Walker told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "It's of all of my five children underneath the jetty, huddled up to neck deep sea water, which is cold. I knew that that would be a challenge to keep three non-swimmers above water and with only my mom, dad and our eldest daughter.

"I spent a lot of time with good friends and prayed like I never prayed before and I think those prayers have been answered."

Holmes recalled how the fire "raged for three hours" on the shore on Friday, surrounding the family with smoke. "Everything was on fire and it was just exploding all over the place," he added.

They managed to escape after Holmes recovered his dinghy. Walker was reunited with her children on Saturday.

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