Albert, 4m pet crocodile, survives home inferno

The gutted house on Bayview St following a fire in Fannie Bay and. Pictures: ELISE DERWIN
The gutted house on Bayview St following a fire in Fannie Bay and. Pictures: ELISE DERWIN

FOUR generations of Top End family memories were reduced to charred remains and ash after a blaze tore through a pre-Cyclone Tracy elevated home in Fannie Bay.

Luckily the occupants, which included a 50-year-old, 4m saltwater croc named Albert, survived the inferno unscathed.

Owner Helen Haritos and her partner Brian Dallistan weren't home as the flames began to lap at the property's first storey around 10am on Thursday, but their son, who lived in the granny flat downstairs, was forced to make a hasty escape alongside his blue heeler Pupson.

Firefighters arrived quickly and managed to extinguish the blaze, but not before the first storey was all but completely gutted.

Mr Dallistan said four generations of family had lived in the property, including Ms Haritos's children, parents and grandfather.

Firefighters said it appeared an iron had been left on in the house and had sparked the blaze.

Leading firefighter Bill Gleeson said that due to structural damage, the fireys hadn't been able to gain entry to the house.

"So all of our operations were done externally for the safety of firefighters," he said.

"Once we had confirmation there was no one inside, there was no reason for us to put firefighters at risk. We quickly brought the fire under control.

"We were informed there was a large saltwater crocodile at the rear of the yard, which was a first for me. It did not affect the operations."

Parks and Wildlife NT chief wildlife ranger Tommy Nichols also attended the scene, to assess Albert's wellbeing and see if there was any need to move the bulky reptile.

"I just wanted to come and make sure the pen was secured ... but the pen is secured, and the croc is contained," Mr Nichols said.

"The fire was still a distance away from the crocodile pen itself. I saw the croc and he looked in pretty good condition."

Neighbours said the home contained priceless family heirlooms, including pearl and butterfly collections owned by Ms Haritos's mother.

Andrew Pinnell, who lives next door, said Ms Haritos had resided in the property for more than 40 years and Albert had been caught by her father "many, many years ago", before permits were required for suburban croc ownership.

"Helen has always characterised Albert as one of their family pets," Mr Pinnell said. Ms Haritos was at Finniss River for work when the blaze occurred.

News Corp Australia

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