Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Blighty rallies

Fundraiser launched after fire ravages home


The Blighty and district community has launched in to action to support a local couple who lost their home to a fire on Wednesday afternoon.

The blaze at Geoff and Pauline Ford’s Riverina Highway home, located next to the Blighty Hotel, was reported about 1.15pm and was ‘‘fully involved’’ by the time emergency services arrived on scene about 15 minutes later.

In the hours that followed the blaze, $500 was collected in the donation tin at the hotel and presented to the devastated couple on Thursday morning.

A delegation of locals, led by Sue Weir and the staff at the Blighty Hotel, are also planning a fundraisin­g appeal to support the couple.

COVID-19 rules allowing, it will be held next Friday night, August 20.

Mrs Weir said the venue will be determined by crowd limits, and in consultati­on with police. The hotel beer garden and the Blighty Recreation Reserve are likely locations.

Mrs Weir said it would be an outdoor barbecue, with raffles and family fun.

The cost will be $50 for families, or $25 per head.

Mrs Weir said ‘‘it’s the least we can do’’ for the long-term Blighty couple.

‘‘Geoff and Pauline are icons of Blighty; they have lived here all their lives and served the community their whole lives,’’ Mrs Weir said.

‘‘It is a very small token for the community to turn around and serve them.

‘‘The whole community is grieving with them; we’re all devastated along with them.’’

While the cause of the fire is still being investigat­ed, Mid-Murray Rural Fire Service district assistant Gerard James said it is not being treated as suspicious.

Deniliquin Police said it is likely the fire started in the roof of the home.

Mr James said one of the home’s occupants was at home at the time of the fire, but was able to easily evacuate.

She took refuge at the hotel, where she was joined by her husband as firefighte­rs battled to extinguish the flames and prevent the fire spreading to other nearby infrastruc­ture.

By about 2.30pm, Mid-Murray RFS confirmed the fire had been contained to the home and all nearby shed and all equipment had been saved.

Ten RFS firefighte­rs from Blighty, Tuppal and Pine Lea responded to the incident, along with 12 from the Deniliquin, Finley and Jerilderie Fire + Rescue NSW brigades.

Police were also in attendance, helping to provide traffic control while highway traffic was disrupted by emergency service movements and visibility issues caused by smoke, as well as NSW Ambulance paramedics.

‘‘A couple of different calls came in to 000 about the situation, with the first recorded at 1.16pm,’’ Mr James said.

‘‘The first crew on scene was at 1.31pm, and the last crews did not leave until 5pm.

‘‘We had one fire truck stay overnight to monitor the situation, and the RFS checked on the property again at 8.30am (Thursday) after reports of smoulderin­g.

‘‘It is instances like this where all the training comes in to play, including local brigades working together.’’

Register your interest in attending the fundraiser for the Fords by calling the Blighty Hotel on 5882 6225.

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