House destroyed by fire near Grafton
FLYING embers from a burning tree could be responsible for a Whiteman Creek couple losing their home in a freak fire.
The property of Jim and Trish Thornton, in Greberts Rd, went up in flames in the early hours of Monday, hours after the owners and neighbours believed they had seen off bushfires that threatened properties in the region over the weekend.
Neighbours said the couple escaped the blaze and had kept many of their belongings packed after Rural Fire Brigade officers warned about the fire danger. The Thornton's dog and its pups were also rescued from the blaze.
Neighbour Peter Campbell, who lives across from the Thorntons, said everyone had gone to bed Sunday night thinking the danger had passed. But ominously Mr Campbell and the Thornton's next-door neighbours, Phil and Janette Cook, noticed a large tree shedding showers of embers in the strong winds.
"It was actually an awe-inspiring sight but it's terrible it cause so much damage," Ms Cook said.
She said embers from the tree appeared to have lodged in the Thornton's house and started a fire. Mr Campbell's daughter Emily was the first awake when she heard some loud bangs she believed were gas bottles exploding. She said it was after 4am when the noise woke her.
"I looked down the front yard and I could see the flames burning right through their house," Emily said.
Mr Campbell said neighbours did what they could and fire brigades were on the scene quickly, but the house was too far gone for them to save it.
"Emily called triple-0 so we had ambulances, fireys and the police out here," Mr Campbell said.
He said it was lucky his property was not in a similar position.
"We had all gone to bed relaxed, thinking the danger had passed," he said.
"If a fire had started here, the same thing could have happened to us. It was only Emily hearing those explosions that woke us up."
The neighbours said despite the destruction of the house, the RFS brigades did a great job protecting property.
"They were here waiting for the fire when it came yesterday," Ms Cook said.
"The noise of it roaring was terrifying, but they were able to do some backburns which kept the fire away from the buildings."
Mr Campbell said the fire had burned right to the edge of his property, but had not caused any damage.
"If it hadn't been for the fireys there would have been a lot more damage to property," he said.