Family loses everything in fire
TEARS well in Michelle Douglas's eyes as she recalls arriving at her Shannondale home on Saturday morning after it was gutted by fire.
And while she would have every reason to break down in tears, instead a smile forms across her face.
Mrs Douglas spent the morning in town with most of the family, but her 15-year-old son, Hasani, had stayed at home.
The fire started about 11.30am and Mrs Douglas received a phone call from her neighbours, telling her they could see smoke billowing from the building.
"We just dropped everything and came straight home."
Mrs Douglas hadn't heard from her son. She didn't know if he was inside the house - whether he was safe or not.
When she walked around
the corner and saw Hasani, safe and well, Mrs Douglas dropped to her knees.
"Seeing him was the best sight I have ever seen."
Hasani was the first on the scene.
He had been in his caravan at the back of the property when he heard a smoke alarm going off.
He entered the house and saw flames up the wall, behind the fridge in the kitchen.
"I went and got the hose to try and spray it down, but the power was off so the pump didn't work," he said.
"So I started bucketing water from the pool."
But by then, the fire had engulfed the wall and was in the ceiling.
Hasani realised the odds of beating the fire were slim, so ran to open doors and push flyscreens out of place.
His actions saved the family's two kittens and cat.
He also grabbed his pet snake, Cleo, on his way out.
By this stage the neighbours had arrived and began to bucket water onto the flames.
But there was nothing anyone could do - it was way too hot, Mrs Douglas said.
By the time fire services arrived, the house was engulfed in flames.
NSW Fire and Rescue and two units from the Coutts Crossing brigade worked to minimise damage, but the fire was too far gone.
Police and ambulance also attended.
Rural Fire Service Inspector Grant Anderson said the main thing was no one was injured. "The crews did a good job but nothing could be saved," he said.
Mrs Douglas said the family had been overwhelmed by the amount of support from people in the Clarence Valley.
"We're so independent and we've done everything ourselves," she said.
"We've had to stop being so stubborn and independent and accept people's generosity."
The family lost everything in the fire - from furniture and clothing to irreplaceable photographs and trinkets.
"Coming home and seeing the house like that, it was horrible," Mrs Douglas said.
"Nothing can explain how it felt." Her daughter Mahalia will celebrate her ninth birthday next week, but all her gifts were lost in the inferno.
"The kids are coping okay. Occasionally they'll remember something else that they lost in the fire and they get pretty upset," Mrs Douglas said.