CRABBES Creek father Peter Strickland surveys the smouldering ruins of his family home.
CRABBES Creek father Peter Strickland surveys the smouldering ruins of his family home. Tweed Daily News/Craig Sadler

Everything lost in blaze

CRAWLING on his hands and knees through thick black smoke, Peter Strickland desperately searched his blazing house for his youngest son.

Knowing his other four children were safe, Mr Strickland wasn't about to give up until he found 18-month-old Reuben and rescued him from the threatening flames.

“I found him standing in the doorway to his sister's bedroom,” Mr Strickland said.

“The fire was directly under him at that stage.

“It was an absolute miracle that there was enough light in the room for me to see his little legs.”

Just 10 minutes after the fire broke out at the Crabbes Creek home on Saturday afternoon, all the Strickland family had left were the clothes on their backs.

“It was like a movie set,” Mr Strickland said of the flames.

“The fire brigade got here eventually, but there was nothing they could do.”

Mr Strickland and his wife Vanessa had been sitting outside on their verandah when they saw some faint smoke just before 5pm.

“We thought it was someone in the neighbourhood burning off,” he said.

“I went to the kitchen to have a look and noticed that smoke was coming out from under both sides of the house. That's when the panic set in.”

The couple's oldest child, Savannah, 10, was staying with a friend at the time, while seven-year-old Marshall was out on the street riding his bike.

Quinn, 5, joined her mother and together they ran from the burning house to get help, while Mr Strickland tried to find a hose to put the out flames.

Then he realised his two youngest sons, Gus, 3, and Reuben, could still be inside the burning building.

“While a lot of people stood by in shock, a friend, Sundar, had the presence of mind to come over and ask what he could do to help,” he said. “He stood by as I went inside.

“I found Gus near the front door walking around with a set of cooking tongs of all things.

“I bought him out and gave him to Sundar and I knew Reuben must be in there as well. By that stage it was starting to get dark.”

The brave dad yesterday held the two boys tightly to him as he recalled how close he came to losing them.

He says he couldn't have saved them without Sundar's help.

The fire brigade told the Stricklands the flames were so hot nothing could be salvaged.

“They are just material things,” Mr Strickland said. “We're just thankful we've got our family unit in tact.”

The Crabbes Creek community has since rallied to help the Stricklands, leaving clothing and toys at the town hall and offering monetary donations at the local store.

Mr Strickland thanked the residents for their kindness, saying all the family needs now is permanent accommodation in the area.

They are currently sorting out the insurance on the home, but it could be a long time before they are able to rebuild.

The cause of the fire remains unknown.

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