News

Lucky escape

By Zoe McMaugh

The community is rallying to support Cory and Kirsty Thomas after fire ravaged their Deniliquin home early Wednesday morning.

Two appeals have been launched to support the couple, who were thankfully able to escape their burning home of four years unharmed with their two dogs.

A GoFundMe page has been launched by their friend Hayley Evans, who hopes to raise between $5000 and $10,000 to help the couple replace their belongings.

The Deniliquin Children’s Centre — where Kirsty is an early childhood educator — has also launched an internal appeal, asking families and staff to donate to help the couple back on their feet.

Cory and Kirsty were alerted to the fire about 5am, initially by their whimpering dogs. As they were roused from their sleep, they heard the smoke alarm sounding.

‘‘Then we smelled the smoke; it smelled like an electrical fire,’’ Kirsty said.

‘‘Cory went to the lounge room and could see smoke coming from under the kitchen door.

‘‘He went outside and saw the whole left side of the house was up in flames.

‘‘The kitchen at the end of the house was completely red, and the roof was all engulfed in flames.’’

With the fire burning hottest at the rear of their home and their bedroom located at the front, the Thomas’s were able to exit easily via the front door.

‘‘I was bawling, but Cory was calmer and kept saying ‘we are safe’,’’ Kirsty said.

‘‘We called the fire brigade and they were there really fast, but it felt like it took a long time.

‘‘There was even a fire truck from Jerilderie there at one stage.

‘‘There was also an ambulance there to check us over. There was a little bit of smoke in the hallway, but we were able to go straight out the front door.

‘‘While we were outside waiting for the fire brigade the smoke was so thick and black we could feel ourselves breathing it in.’’

Cory said because the kitchen and the loungeroom are separated by a door, the fire was semi contained in the home.

He said the most damage is to the kitchen and the back room, where the couple kept particular items including their car keys.

Kirsty’s wedding ring and engagement ring were also left in the back room overnight.

There is no direct fire damage bathroom and two bedrooms, but some items are still smoke and water damages.

The couple and their friends were yesterday sifting through the ashes to see what they could salvage.

‘‘We had to wait to be able to go in the house because they are still unsure if the roof would collapse,’’ Kirsty said.

‘‘The house is made from red gum so it may continue to burn for a few days.

‘‘We are so very appreciate of everyone, and particularly the firefighters.  Some of them even went back in to house to see if they could find my wedding and engagement rings.

‘‘We want to say thank you to the firefighters, the police and everyone who has reached out to us,’’ Cory added.

The couple fled the house in their pyjamas and were only able to grab a few small items before leaving the home, including some cash.

They waited across the road as they watched emergency services try in vain to save their home.

The pair are staying with friends until another rental can be found for them, but they will need to ‘‘start again’’ when setting up their home.

‘‘One thing we have taken out of this is the importance of contents insurance,’’ Kirsty said.

‘‘We did not think we needed it, and now we’re realising just how painful it is to start from scratch. I would recommend everyone get contents insurance.’’

It was merely hours after the fire at the couple’s Crispe St home that Hayley established an online donation page for them.

Describing them as ‘‘two of the most selfless, caring, generous people you could ever have the privilege of knowing’’, she said it was the best way she knew how to help.

‘‘They are such beautiful people and you just want to do what you can,’’ she said.

‘‘The aim is to get $5000 or $10,000 — when you have to buy everything for your home again it adds up.

‘‘Kirsty has invested her own money buying toys and other items for her early education programs, out of her own pocket but everything that is not burned is probably water or smoke damaged.

‘‘It’s just heart breaking.’’

Deniliquin Children’s Centre general manager Felicity Michael said any monetary donations made through the centre would be deposited to the GoFundMe page.

‘‘Kirsty is a well loved educator, and one of our values is nurturing people in good and bad times,’’ she said.

‘‘This is the least we can do for anyone in our community, let alone one of our own.’’

Deniliquin Fire + Rescue NSW Captain Martin Smith said the cause of the fire is yet to be determined.

He said 15 firefighters from Deniliquin and four from Finley attended the scene, while four firefighters from Jerilderie were on standby at the Deniliquin station.

Firefighters used an elevated platform later in the morning to inspect the roof cavity from which smoke could be seen rising.

‘‘We had to check the roof space as there was a risk of the structure collapsing and the roof had a high pitch, making it unsafe for firefighters to work on,’’ Capt Smith said.

‘‘The frame is made from red gum which takes a while to get going, but once it does, it burns for longer compared to other structure materials including pine.’’

To donate to the GoFundMe page, go to https://gf.me/u/yy6ry3.