Houses lost in inferno
WHEN Brett Ciantar's five-year-old son found out his Victorian home had been destroyed in the bushfires, he asked if he could return to the site to search for his Lego.
Mr Ciantar, a Tweed resident, said it broke his heart to hear that his sons had lost everything in an inferno that razed their home in Boolarra, near Churchill.
Thankfully, Liam, 5, Rhys, 2, and their mother, Lisa White, managed to escape with their lives.
Mr Ciantar has been in Tweed Heads for the past year, but before that he was living at the Gippsland property with Ms White and the boys.
The pair are now separated, but they have joint ownership of the 10 acres of land which used to include two houses and a machinery shed.
All that remains there now is a pile of rubble.
About 12 months after the family moved to Boolarra, Mr Ciantar joined the local fire brigade.
So when he got a phone call from Ms White saying the bushland surrounding her home was alight, he knew she had to move fast.
“She rang me on the Wednesday and told me where the fire was, so I told her to get out then. I joked that in nine years, it was the first time she's ever actually done what I've said,” he said. “Being in the fire brigade down there, I knew it was going to go.
“We lost the home on the Friday. It was before all the Kinglake fires began.”
Mr Ciantar's family fled to the next town and watched helplessly as their home and about 30 others were de- stroyed.
“My mate said it just rolled over the hill like a wave, with 40-foot-high flames.”
It was six years to the day since the family had bought the property; in just moments they had lost everything.
“All Lisa grabbed was the computer, so we've got some photos of the boys, but all the videos of them learning to walk and the irreplaceable things are gone.”
Mr Ciantar flew south to be with his family soon after the home was destroyed.
“I knew what I was going to see when I got there, but Lisa wasn't prepared,” he said. “I think she didn't expect it to be so destroyed.”
The father of two will return to Victoria this week to start re-building the home.
“If you sit there thinking about everything you've lost, it's just going to beat you,” he said. “You've just got to pick yourself back up; it's all you can do.”