Kindness of strangers save couple from raging inferno
UPDATE: An East Toowoomba couple has credited four strangers with saving their lives after a fire tore through their home last night.
Dee and Greg Whittaker, and family dog Raja, may be faced with a pile of ash and rubble after their Herries St home was severely damaged overnight, but they're still alive.
Recalling the harrowing moment Mrs Whittaker realised her house was burning, she says the situation would have been much worse had it not been for the four men across the road.
"The first I knew about it was there was lots of noise out the front of the house, banging and thumping, and at first I thought it was just the noisy street.
"So I came out and saw the neighbours were there and they said, 'is there anybody else in the house, it's on fire'."
The four men coordinated the initial response, grabbing garden hoses and starting to fight the inferno to try stop it from spreading to Mrs Whittaker's mother's home next door.
"I just stood there and started to hose it for a while but then when it got inside the house, I just stood back and thought, 'well this is it'," she said.
An underground natural gas line refuelled the fire when the blaze melted the gauge switch inside the enclosed sitting area at the front of the home.
That's when thoughts turned to the possibility of the house exploding.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews arrived on scene within minutes and took control of the situation, but the fire still burned for more than an hour.
Mrs Whittaker said the four men, and the fire crews, were the real heroes.
"I was able to be standing outside the fire, watching the house burn and thinking, 'that's why you have insurance'.
"Even now I'm fairly calm about it.
"You walk away and think at least my house is still standing and imagine what it's like for people who its not."
9.30AM: Rapid actions of neighbours saved a Toowoomba couple from a potentially explosive situation when fire tore through their home last night.
Four men alerted the owners of a Herries St home to a fire which broke out in the outdoor area about 8.30pm Wednesday.
While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, police are not treating it as suspicious.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services investigator Peter McCarron said early indications were the fire started near a pile of books and papers stored in the outdoor area of the East Toowoomba home.
He praised the actions of the homeowners and neighbours who raised the alarm and began fighting the fire before QFES crews arrived.
Mr McCarron said an underground natural gas line running to the house complicated the emergency response but through the neighbours' actions and responding firefighters, the situation was safely resolved.
"There was natural gas there which runs through to the house," he said.
"(The tap) melted through and that got the fire going faster and harder again.
"(Natural gas) is dangerous when there is fire near it (but) fire crews were able to turn it off and slow the fire down."
Mr McCarron said the home was fitted with working smoke alarms.
He said it was a timely reminder for all homeowners to check alarms and ensure heating devices were checked.
"Every year we have fires in house and the colder weather is coming so it's going to be our busy time," he said.
EARLIER: A family home in Toowoomba has been destroyed by fire with investigators yet to determine the cause of the blaze.
The fire broke out shortly before 8.30pm in the Herries St home and the occupants managed to escape the burning structure.
Neighbours and homeowners worked to fight the fire in the brick home before Queensland Fire and Emergency Services crews arrived.
A ruptured underground natural gas line hampered initial firefighting efforts before the blaze was brought under control by about 9.45pm.
Queensland Ambulance paramedics were put on standby at the incident but no-one required treatment.
Fire investigators have this morning returned to the scene and will work to determine what sparked the blaze.