"Tornadoes of fire" swirling around them, the Holmes family jumped into the water and clung to a boat jetty for three hours to escape the wildfires raging across Tasmania.
Tim and Tammy Holmes were looking after Bonnie Walker's five young children while she attended a funeral late last week.
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Fire quickly engulfed the town of Dunalley, and Tim Holmes ordered his wife and the children to take shelter under the wooden jetty on their property, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
He texted a picture of the family to his daughter, telling her they were "surrounded by fire."
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"It's still quite an upsetting image," Walker told ABC. "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."
Eventually, Tim Holmes found a small dinghy and took the family further offshore, The Telegraph reported.
"We saw tornadoes of fire just coming across to us," he said.