All go for new be­gin­nings af­ter fire

So grate­ful for all of­fers of help and ac­com­mo­da­tion af­ter dev­as­ta­tion

Central Otago Mirror - - WANAKA NEWS - By MAR­JORIE COOK

Grate­ful Wanaka grand­mother Jo­lene Fitzhar­ris, 76, is re­build­ing her home af­ter a fire in Jan­uary de­stroyed many of her trea­sured me­men­tos.

Fitzhar­ris said last week she wanted to thank the many peo­ple who had been kind to her and of­fered her sup­port or ac­com­mo­da­tion since the early morn­ing blaze on Jan­uary 20.

Af­ter all the at­ten­tion, Fitzhar­ris was re­luc­tant to be pho­tographed again but was will­ing to show the in­te­rior of her home so peo­ple could un­der­stand the dev­as­tat­ing af­fects of a fire.

At first glance from the out­side of her Matai Rd house, noth­ing much ap­peared wrong, she said.

The fire started in a down­stairs log­burner and quickly trav­elled up the chim­ney into the roof.

Her up­stairs rooms were al­most com­pletely de­stroyed while the down­stairs area suf­fered wa­ter dam­age.

Some of her be­long­ings – in­clud­ing her 76-year-old teddy bear, a child­hood prayer book, her fam­ily his­tory and cloth­ing – could be sal­vaged from her bed­room be­cause the door had been closed.

Fitzhar­ris said even though the items had no mon­e­tary value, they were im­por­tant to her.

She was amazed her com­pleted, fi­nal draft book of fam­ily his­tory, printed on hun­dreds of pieces of A4 pa­per, had not been incinerated. ‘‘God is on my side,’’ she said. The keen scrap­booker has been busy col­lect­ing items for a new book about the fire.

‘‘This must be God’s way of say­ing I needed a new project,’’ she said.

She has been work­ing for sev­eral weeks with her grand­chil­dren, builders and her in­sur­ance com­pany on rebuild plans and hopes they will be signed off soon.

‘‘I started plan­ning on the sec­ond night [af­ter the fire]. My hit list is so­lar power, an in­ter­nal lift, re­lo­cate the stairs and turn the en­suite into a garage. I wanted my bed­room so I get more sun . . . When I get con­sent, watch this space,’’ she said.

Pho­tos: MAR­JORIE COOK 630598047

mar­jorie.cook@fair­fax­me­ Re­build­ing: Ris­ing from the ashes – Wanaka house owner Jo­lene Fitzhar­ris in­spects the seat of a chim­ney fire in her home in Jan­uary.


Fire sur­vivor: Jo­lene Fitzhar­ris’s 76-year-old teddy bear has been a com­pan­ion since child­hood.

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