Waking to the sound of rain on the windows, I got dressed and headed outside.
Working as sheep shearers, my dad, David, 52, mum, Sally, 45, and my siblings, Olivia, 23, Brady, 17, and I were staying on a farm in Telopea Downs in rural Victoria, where we’d been for almost a fortnight.
Olivia’s baby Molly, one, was back home with our sister Maddison, 25, and her little girl Nyah, also one.
Mum, our cook, was looking after Olivia’s eldest Winslow, two, while we sheared up to 900 sheep per day.
That morning, the farm manager Bill* decided that the sheep were too wet.
But he invited us to have a few beers around the campfire later that night.
So at 6pm, Olivia, our workmate Dre, 22, and I met Bill and the other workers at the shearing quarters.
Mum and Dad were in the kitchen with Winslow.
Still wet outside, the warmth from the fire in the 44-gallon metal drum was lovely.
Suddenly, Bill splashed a jerry can of diesel on the fire.
Just a metre away, I felt the heat of the flames lick at my cheeks so took a few steps back.
Then he glugged the rest of the jerry can onto the now blazing fire.
I stood in complete shock as the drum exploded and flames roared towards me.
Engulfing me, I could hear my singed hair crackling, and I screamed as flames devoured my clothes.
My face on fire, I couldn’t breathe, and the acrid taste of fuel filled my mouth.
I was a human fireball!
Running to me, Bill began slapping the flames with his hands to put them out.
Hearing the commotion, Dad rushed over.
Seeing me, he carried me to the shower block 100 metres away.
As cold water ran over my body, I cried in pain.
Looking down, I saw chunks of my burnt skin being washed down the drain.
And the skin on my hands looked like it was melting too.
‘Take my bra off?’ I begged Dre, who was by my side, along with my red heeler Charlie, who’d heard my cries.
‘It’s melted to your skin,’ she sobbed.
When Dad came to check on me, a tear rolled down his cheek.
‘The ambulance is on their way,’ he soothed, before calling out to Mum, ‘How’s Olivia?’
That’s when I realised Olivia had been burnt too!
Thankfully, her shearing singlet, made of naturally flame-resistant lamb’s wool, had mostly protected her body.
But her face and hands had been badly burnt, so she’d been taken to another shower block.
‘Put Olivia in the ambulance first!’ I begged Dad.
‘You’re a lot worse. You’re going first,’ he said gently.
About 40 minutes later, paramedics arrived to load Olivia and me into a chopper.
Too weak to speak, I dozed off, and woke up struggling to breathe, my eyes almost swollen shut.
Landing moments later, two ambulances were waiting to drive me and Olivia separately.
Mustering my strength to wave goodbye to Olivia, it hit me.
I might actually die.
Then everything went black as I was put into an induced coma.
Waking up five days later, Olivia was by my hospital bed.
Her beautiful blonde hair had been so badly burnt they’d shaved what was left.
She also had second degree burns on her face, ears, hands, shoulders and back.
If she hadn’t been wearing her woollen singlet, her injuries would’ve been so much worse.
‘I’m so glad you’re okay,’ she sobbed.
After three days in the burns unit, Olivia had been discharged.
Treating her burns, nurses scraped the peeling skin and changed her dressings every three hours, but she’d spent every day at my side.
Wrapped head to toe in bandages, I learned that while in a coma, skin grafts from my thigh were used on my hands, chest, shoulder and under my arm.
I’d received second degree burns to eight per cent of my body and third degree burns to another two per cent.
After a week in ICU, I was moved to the burns unit.
Thankfully, it took less than two weeks for me to get back on my feet.
The more I walked though, my heart seemed to pound out of my chest.
CT scans revealed I had a blood clot in my left leg and another in my lung, which was treated with blood thinning injections.
‘If it travelled to your heart, you would have died,’ the doctor said.
Three weeks after the accident, I was discharged.
Now six months on, I’ve lost the use of my left thumb and have to avoid the sun for two years due to the risk of permanent damage to my skin.
But my goal is to get back to what I love – shearing sheep.
Olivia’s face, hands and ear have all healed well and she’s back to being the best mum to Winslow and Molly.
I’m not angry at Bill. We’re still friends, and he’s apologised profusely.
He made a mistake.
And it’s just a massive reminder to never pour accelerants such as diesel on a fire.
I’ll carry my scars for life, but I’m so lucky to be alive!