Nelson Bay after the fires. (Source: Tasmanian Fire Service Facebook)

We were in a hut in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area when the lightning started flashing behind the moorland and the mountains, in the distance.

Two days later I had climbed to the top of Mount Oakleigh when I saw a billow of smoke rising from a forested hillside above the Mersey River. I made a few phone calls, and half an hour later, a helicopter from the Parks and Wildlife Service was making a reconnaissance trip over the area. Seeing the helicopter’s size in comparison to the smoke made me suddenly realise that it was a bigger burn that I’d realised -- the chopper looked like a speck.