Trigger warning: This article contains a first-hand account of the summer bushfires in the Southern Highlands.
A Bundanoon resident has slammed the "complete lack of communication and instruction" during an evacuation from a bushfire on January 4.
But despite the criticism, the resident also praised the "abundance" of NSW Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue NSW firefighters and other crews in the village and surrounding areas.
Their experience was detailed in an anonymous letter submitted to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, which was published to the public on its website.
They said that evening there was a "huge amount of smoke" from the Currowan fire, compared to previous weeks.
Earlier that day a Facebook post from a credible source advised residents "not to be concerned or alarmed by the increase of smoke".
The post reassured residents it was "under control", "being monitored" and "notice would be given if anything had changed".
"At approximately 10.30pm, we received an emergency SMS advising that it was too late to leave and to take shelter," the Bundanoon resident said.
"My husband and I were completely horrified and panic-stricken."
'Complete and utter confusion'
The couple's bushfire survival plan was to leave their property if fire was imminent, with the assumption they would be given advanced warning.
That night the couple decided they would leave the area, as did many of their neighbours.
"It would seem that no plan had been formulated for an emergency evacuation," they claimed.
"With fire alongside the roads, we were all corralled onto Bundanoon Oval, hundreds of people and pets".
The couple waited at the oval for about 40 minutes before they were escorted from the oval via Ellsmore Road to the Hume Highway.
"However, 15 minutes into this convoy, we were all instructed to turn back, the wrong road had been taken, and to proceed along Ferndale Road instead," they said.
The resident said there was "complete and utter confusion" during the evacuation.
"All this in the dead of night, driving through thick smoke and ash," they said.
"It was the most terrifying experience of my life. The total lack of planning was unbelievable."
Once the couple reached Sally's Corner on the Hume Highway, they said they were waved on by those managing traffic.
"No information or directive at all, not a word of support or advice. We spent the rest of the night in our car in McDonald's car park."
Bushfire situation 'well monitored'
The resident said it was "reassuring" that the situation was "well-monitored" by emergency services.
"In addition, earthmoving work and aerial water bombing was ongoing for weeks," the said.
"The bushfire prevention work and tackling small outbreaks was to be commended."
The resident's letter is one of more than 1700 public submissions received by the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.
The Royal Commission team is in the process of completing its inquiry and preparing a comprehensive report for the government.
The team is expected to deliver its findings by October 28.
Lifeline has a dedicated 24-hour bushfire recovery support line: 13 HELP (13 43 57).