As they drove down Hillsborough Road near Countdown on their way to an appointment, Sacha was sure she could smell smoke. By the time they got to the intersection with Commodore Drive, she was in a full panic attack struggling to breathe, even with the aircon blasting and the windows open. An extreme reaction, but understandable when you realise that just 10 days earlier their rented house went up in flames.
Sacha’s six-year-old son frequently thinks he can smell smoke and struggles to get to sleep at night. Sacha is waking five to six times each night needing to check that her children are ok. Her partner Alan went back to his concrete laying job the week following the fire, but only lasted two days before he could no longer concentrate and took leave.
The family are traumatised and still dealing with shock. They are grateful that they and their dogs are all ok. Their pet fish were not so lucky.
The evening of the fire, Friday 8th February, Sacha and Alan were setting up a tent in the backyard for the boys to sleep in. Sacha wanted to get them off the video game Fortnite and get outside. They had gone into the garage to get mattresses for the tents. Minutes later while Alan, Sacha and one of the boys were in the backyard with the tent, they heard a bang. Turning around they saw smoke coming out of the garage. Screaming, they ran to the house where the other boy had gone to the kitchen for provisions. From then everything became a blur.
Five fire crews turned out, the first one within seven minutes. Rachel Humphrey, a neighbour from further up Commodore, offered to help arrange donations to help the family. Victim Support were also great.
Not so great was the property manager when she phoned him with the bad news, Sacha commented. “He seemed quite angry and when he arrived, he asked how we had started the fire, without even asking if everyone was ok.”
The irony is that the fire started from an electrical fault in the garage where a previous owner had wired in lights. Sacha has since been told that before they rented the house, a property management company had allegedly told the owner that there were electrical issues which would have to be fixed before they could list the rental. The house was subsequently rented privately to them. Since then the house has been on-sold (they had to endure the open homes) and the new owner planned to demolish the house, asking them to vacate before the end of their lease.
It appears that through no fault of their own, this family have lost their entire house lot of contents. Sacha and Alan had discussed getting contents insurance but had never got around to doing it. Now, with 20-20 hindsight, Sacha says “Make sure you are insured!” Her car fortunately was insured as it was burnt out.
Rachel Humphrey was at the fire early on as she lives just a few doors away. Rachel and others were quietly watching as the fire crews tackled the burning house and car when she noticed a woman on a cell phone almost screaming, and realised it was the occupant, Sacha. When Sacha wandered into the middle of the road in shock, Rachel went and brought her back to the footpath and hugged her. Another lady also came up and joined the hug.
Later that evening Rachel set up a donation post on Facebook, and by the time Rachel retired for the night, three people had already called in bringing donations. The community response since then has been huge, with items from clothing to furniture. One man arrived with a washing machine, microwave and cash. Another delivered a home-cooked Indian meal. Lynfield Community Church gave a $200 Countdown voucher and St Vincent de Paul delivered a large box of groceries. One local lady went to see the manager at Countdown, and they donated a voucher for $50.
This enormous outpouring has been a highlight in a very bleak time for the family, and it has really taken them by surprise. Like most of us they are reluctant to ask for help, yet really blessed by the love and generosity of people.
Since the fire the family have been staying with friends, which they are grateful for, but they are looking forward to their own place again.
Two Givealittle pages have so far raised around $6,000. If you would like to donate, Google “Givealittle Lynfield Fire”.
Some questions to consider:
Having a channel to be able to assist victims of tragedies can be cathartic to the rest of us in the community. It empowers us to empathise in a practical way and helps us to process the shock as well.