Sunday, 6 May 2012

Up in smoke

It was about 3am when we heard the loud cracking and popping of what we thought were fire-crackers. Why anyone would want to be setting off crackers in the ungodly hours of Saturday morning annoyed Jason to the max! He jumped out of bed, opened our window and was ready to give someone an ear bashing.

He looked out the bedroom window and then he went to the back of the house to go outside. Thirty seconds later Jason rushed back into the bedroom and started throwing on his clothes, "Get up. The house behind us is on fire."

"What? No. Oh my God."

As I raced out onto the deck, I was shocked to see the old timber house which backs onto the Sow's Ear streaming with the thickest blackest smoke I had seen. You could barely even see the house it was blanketed with that much smoke. It was at that moment we heard the sirens of the approaching fire engines.

Jason and I just looked at each other, helpless to do much but watch what was unfolding before our eyes. It was too late to do anything. We had slept through the window of opportunity where we could be of any use to anyone. It is a sickening feeling.

The quick response of fire emergency was such a relief and they contained the fire within minutes. We could hear and feel the steam in the air when they were dousing the fire from the front. We couldn't see anything from where we were, as there was too much smoke.

I took this at about 6am, a few hours after the fire. It doesn't look too bad from this angle except that the roof is blackened and the windows are charred.

The house is rented out. We weren't too sure whether the tenants were there at the time. When I went to have a look later that morning, one of the neighbours told me that there was no one inside during the fire.

I took this shot later in the morning. The fire damage is quite obvious from the front. The police and fire investigation unit were there for most of the day too.
I didn't want to be too obvious taking photos lest they thought I was one of those disaster tourists.
The very scariest thing about this fire, apart from it being too close for comfort, was how silent it was for us. We heard nothing and we smelt nothing until the house was well and truly blazing.

Our children never even woke up. They slept blissfully unaware of all the noises around them - the fire, sirens and neighbouring smoke alarms going off.

Old timber houses and fire are an unhappy combination. We're getting a second smoke alarm for the Sow's Ear after this experience. There is no way we ever want to be caught in a burning house without a fighting chance.

EDIT: I'm including a link to Qld Fire and Rescue's website about smoke alarm placement. It might come in handy for anyone spooked by this post. Link is HERE


  1. Over the years I knew of quite a few people whose houses burnt down. The danger of having timber houses, I guess. Interestingly, as a tenant, we have ot have a smoke alarm outside every bedroom…

  2. That's interesting. I looked up what the regulations are for Queensland, so I will add the link to that in this blog post. xx

  3. Gosh that's so scary, not only being so close to you guys but as you say, there being that time delay before you realised what was happening. It's funny, I was actually thinking as I lay in bed last night that I forgot to change our smoke alarm batteries on the 1st of April - am off to add it to my to do list now before I forget again!! x

  4. wow, that is scary! i'm certainly used to seeing bush on fire, but a house just leaves you with a sick feeling doesnt it.

    smoke alarms really are life savers. although they are a requirement by law to have for the sale of a house typically it only has to be one. We have one near the bedroom, but I think we need at least two more - especially thikning of the nights when we have a house full of bodies in various spots when country friends come to stay!

  5. Terrifying ... bet you didn't get back to sleep after that. Such a shame about the house but so glad no one was hurt.
    Anonymous Natalie

  6. OMG, how action packed is this!! That's so scary, shockingly true - you sleep through & the smoke gets you, then the house burns to the ground.
    When i was little our next door neighbour's house was raised to the ground, enormous fire, but we didn't hear anything until the fire engines arrived. No idea who rang, as the neighbours were away on holidays. My mother turned into instant tea/ coffee/ snacks lady, as you do at 2a.m. she was even baking scones. I will never forget the fire chief walking up our stairs & flicking a cigarette but into our pool area, OMG, no wonder i never ever smoked or had respect for anyone who does, i just can't!! Love Posie

  7. Phew - I thought this might be a worse tragedy for a while. We all moan about alarms going off when we make the toast, but it's times like these when their use is most appreciated, eh?

  8. Ditto, as land lords we have to have some kind of fancy wired in smoke detectors in our rental properties, so they don't just rely on a battery!! It's da law (said in slow low voice), love Posie

  9. Very scary, so glad no one was injured. ;-)

  10. That is really scary. I'm glad no one was hurt. Does your house smell smokey?

  11. Our house doesn't smell smokey because we had the windows shut but when you go outside you can smell it quite distinctly. xx

  12. That is terrible, but am relieved no one was hurt, it could have been so much worse. We have four smoke alarms in our place and like the other commenter have heard that one in each room is the best way to go. xxx

  13. Always a concern living in a wooden house, isn't it.So glad it didn't spread to yours or the other neighbours. Mr CH helped put out a fire down the road once (from a tossed cigarette)the young girls didn't know what to do, the house was burning from the outside!

  14. EEK, horrible! Glad to hear no one was hurt & it was contained pretty quickly. Smart to fill up on the detectors.

  15. After that terrible fire tragedy over Christmas in Tewantin I went and stocked up on new alarms. We now have them everywhere as per the Fire Service recommendations. They recommended different types for different rooms too. Their website explains it all. So scary when you realise how easy it is to sleep through. Glad it wasn't a lot worse.


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