Fam­ily safe af­ter fire

Fire rav­ages Ba­rooga home; fire alarms save lives

The Cobram Courier - - FRONT PAGE - By Patrick Tansey

A young fam­ily was lucky to make it out alive as fire swept through and com­pletely de­stroyed a Ba­rooga home early Thurs­day.

Josh Drew and his part­ner Ellerose Walk­ing­ton were sleep­ing when they were wo­ken by a smoke alarm.

Mr Drew went to check what was hap­pen­ing, and quickly re­alised smoke was com­ing from the ceil­ing of the prop­erty.

The cou­ple quickly grabbed daugh­ter Is­abella, 15 months, who was sleep­ing in a sep­a­rate room, be­fore grab­bing their two pets and run­ning from the house.

In a heart-wrench­ing sit­u­a­tion, the cou­ple watched the home burn af­ter hav­ing spent the past year ren­o­vat­ing it.

Ba­rooga Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice was first to re­spond, as­sisted by Co­bram Fire Bri­gade, Tocumwal Fire and Res­cue, Tocumwal po­lice and Co­bram am­bu­lance.

Ba­rooga RFS cap­tain Wayne Smith said the blaze, which com­pletely de­stroyed the weath­er­board home, took re­spond­ing crews a short while to ex­tin­guish.

‘‘We got the call-out at about 1 am and when we ar­rived the house was well alight and took us around 20 min­utes to get un­der con­trol,’’ he said.

Mr Smith said the crit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion of smoke alarms in alert­ing the fam­ily to the dan­ger served as a timely re­minder to other peo­ple in the com­mu­nity.

‘‘All I can say is thank God they had func­tional smoke de­tec­tors in the house be­cause I think if they didn’t the out­come could have been a lot worse,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s a great mes­sage for the pub­lic — please don’t take smoke de­tec­tors for granted, make sure they’re work­ing and check them reg­u­larly.’’

There were no sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the blaze.

Af­ter los­ing just about ev­ery­thing but the clothes on their backs, a young Ba­rooga fam­ily must start the painstak­ing process of re­build­ing their lives from scratch.

Josh Drew and his part­ner Elle-rose Walk­ing­ton watched on in hor­ror as their fam­ily home, which they had spent a year re­fur­bish­ing, was en­gulfed by flames and com­pletely rav­aged.

Un­for­tu­nately, the cou­ple did not have con­tent in­sur­ance for the home.

With 15-month-old daugh­ter Is­abella to look af­ter, the cou­ple will need the whole com­mu­nity’s sup­port in the com­ing weeks.

Speak­ing on the fam­ily’s be­half, Mr Drew’s sis­ter Meg said the dis­tress­ing in­ci­dent had left the en­tire fam­ily dev­as­tated.

‘‘There were some very sen­ti­men­tal items from Elle’s side of the fam­ily, which had been kept for gen­er­a­tions, which Josh was par­tic­u­larly gut­ted about,’’ she said.

‘‘They stood out there on the side of the road and watched their house burn; I don’t think you can get much worse than that.

‘‘It was heart­break­ing for them to watch all their hard work in ren­o­vat­ing the place go up in flames.’’

While few, if any, pos­i­tives can be sal­vaged from such a hor­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion, Ms Drew said the sup­port the Ba­rooga com­mu­nity had shown the fam­ily was warmly ap­pre­ci­ated by Mr Drew and Ms Walk­ing­ton.

‘‘They’re ex­tremely ap­pre­cia­tive of all the sup­port that has been given to them. The whole town has ral­lied around them which has been pretty in­cred­i­ble to wit­ness and they are both feel­ing the love,’’ Ms Drew said.

‘‘I know they went past the house the other day and tried to see if any­thing was sal­vage­able and peo­ple were just walk­ing past and of­fer­ing kind words and lend­ing a hand where they could.’’

As a way of try­ing to help the young cou­ple and their child get back on their feet and re­build their lives, Ms Drew de­cided to start a go­fundme page.

‘‘That was my idea and that came about as soon as Josh told me he had no con­tent in­sur­ance. I woke up to videos from Josh that showed the house in flames and I was in a bit of dis­be­lief to be hon­est.

‘‘Fun­nily enough, I think Josh got home at about 4.30 am and went to work the next morn­ing. I think he just wanted to take his mind off what had just hap­pened.’’

The fire was just two days be­fore Mr Drew’s 21st birth­day.

Ms Drew said it was in­cred­i­ble to think how quickly a life could be turned on its head.

‘‘I re­mem­ber hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with Josh and I asked him what he wanted for his birth­day and he said noth­ing, he said he al­ready had ev­ery­thing he needed,’’ she said.

‘‘And then vir­tu­ally the next day they had noth­ing. It doesn’t get much more dev­as­tat­ing than that.’’

● If you would like to con­trib­ute to­ward help­ing the young fam­ily re­build their lives, you can do­nate by typ­ing ‘Home lost — house fire’ in the search bar on the go­fundme web­site. Ba­rooga Ru­ral Fire Ser­vice has also dis­trib­uted some do­na­tion tins around town, in­clud­ing at Fee’s Cof­fee House, Ba­rooga BP, Ba­rooga IGA and the Ba­rooga Ho­tel if you would like to con­trib­ute that way.

Car­nage: A young fam­ily is lucky to be alive af­ter a fire rav­aged a Ba­rooga home early Thurs­day.

Gone: The house (above and be­low) was com­pletely de­stroyed by the blaze.

Pho­tos sup­plied by Meg Drew

Fam­ily to­gether: Josh Drew and his part­ner Elle-rose Walk­ing­ton with their daugh­ter Is­abella.

Scary: The cot in Is­abella’s room was mirac­u­lously in­tact fol­low­ing the blaze.

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