PAM Smith and Jo O?Connell, survey the burnt remains of what was only a few hours before the house that  adjoined their propert
PAM Smith and Jo O?Connell, survey the burnt remains of what was only a few hours before the house that adjoined their propert

Midnight fire razes house



BILAMBIL Heights resident Rick Smith feared he would lose the family home he had built with his own hands 20 years ago, as he battled fierce flames and intense heat from a fire which gutted his neighbour's house in the early hours of yesterday morning.

"I thought I'd lose my house," a tired Mr Smith said of the threat posed by the fire only two metres away, which destroyed the house at 120 Peninsula Drive at about 12.30am yesterday.

A 47-year-old man who was living in the house was taken by ambulance to Tweed Hospital suffering minor burns to his hands and face as a result of the fire.

Mr Smith, who lives at No. 118 with his wife Pam and children Dale, 20, Jocelyn, 17, and Mallory, 14, said he started fighting the fire next door with a hose after his wife had woken and alerted him.

"The house was well and truly ablaze so I had to wet our house down, because if I hadn't the heat was enough to set the timber on fire ... we were extremely lucky as the breeze was blowing down the hill as the flames poured out of the house right near us," he said.

Pam Smith and several neighbours who were woken by the roar and crackling of the blaze, called the fire brigade, but the house was well alight when firefighters from three Tweed stations rushed to the scene shortly after.

"I was in bed at about 12.30am when I could see a glow along the verandah and heard crackling noises and glass popping ... We called the fire brigade and I quickly roused the kids in case we needed to bolt," she said.

"We so much appreciated the fireys' hard effort, because our house would've gone and we would've lost everything."

Neighbours who feared the wind may change direction and blow embers onto their homes evacuated and moved cars up the road as firefighters battled the blaze.

Mr Smith said that after firefighters left the scene several hours later, he again had to get his hose out to douse the ruins which had re-ignited.

"I wanted to get rid of it (the flames) so I could get to sleep eventually ... I woke up this morning with a hell of a headache," he said.

A forensic team scoured the ruins yesterday for clues to the cause of the fire and is expected to soon make its findings in a report, police said.

? LUIS FELIU



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