Barmah’s Lance James lost his house in a fire last Wednesday, but escaped with his life after a man visiting his neighbour dragged him out of harm’s way.MONIQUE PRESTON November 30, 2012 4:56am
Barmah's Lance James says he feels lucky to be alive after being rescued from his burning house by a neighbour's friend last Wednesday.
Lance James believes he would not be alive if it wasn’t for a man he barely knows pulling him out of his burning house moments before it completely went up in flames.
Mr James’ story of what happened on Wednesday night last week is a haunting one.
The 64-year-old had fallen asleep in the recliner chair in the loungeroom of his home in Lawford St, Barmah, some time after returning home from visiting a friend about 10.30pm.
‘‘I sat down and watched TV for a while. Then I dozed off,’’ Mr James said.
When he was woken by the shrill sound of the smoke detector, Mr James said his house was a ‘‘haze of smoke’’.
He watched as the fire moved from one bedroom to another, before it headed towards where he was.
‘‘I got down to the floor and crawled. I thought I would be able to get to the front door and it would open, but it was jammed. It seized.’’
Mr James said he tried opening the door for what seemed like about one or two minutes before it finally opened.
‘‘The fire went out (the door) over my head about six feet (180cm) in front of me in a ball,’’ he said.
Still close to the ground, Mr James collapsed in the doorway, with half his body still inside the house, and half outside.
‘‘I had nothing left. By that time I had all my oxygen used up and no strength.
‘‘I wouldn’t have been able to get out of the doorway.’’
Mr James was pulled out of the doorway by a man he only knows as ‘Jock’, who was visiting his next-door neighbour and had just happened to step outside as the house went up.
‘‘He pulled me out. He could just see the top half of my body,’’ Mr James said.
‘‘It (the fire) was on the way to the door. It was only seconds from me.
‘‘Another half a minute and Jock wouldn’t be able to get to me. It would have been too hot.
‘‘He pulled me out and said I was starting to cook.
‘‘If he hadn’t have walked outside, I wouldn’t be here today to tell the story. I wouldn’t have been able to get out the doorway.’’
Mr James said the house went up fast.
‘‘From the time Jock pulled me out, in only two minutes, it was all alight,’’ he said.
‘‘I saw it after they dragged me away. The house was gone.’’
With the Barmah fire station only three properties away from Mr James’ house, firefighters were on the scene fast, but there was little they could do.
Mr James was pulled away from the fire, with neighbours and firefighters administering first-aid as the fire razed his heritage-listed home.
‘‘I was having convulsions with the smoke,’’ he said.
‘‘They were towelling me down and putting water on me and they put a wet sponge in my mouth.’’
Jock, along with neighbours he knows as Hippie and Irene and Barmah firefighter Margy Derby, stayed with Mr James until the ambulance arrived.
He remained in Echuca hospital until he returned home to Barmah on Saturday morning.
Mr James has since caught up with Jock, a man he previously only knew to say hello to because he was friends with his neighbour.
‘‘He was overcome with emotion as much as I was,’’ Mr James said of their reunion.
‘‘I’ll be forever indebted to him for saving my life.’’
Mr James is also relieved he had a working smoke detector in his house.
‘‘I had only just changed the battery with (the start of) daylight saving,’’ he said.
‘‘I thought about it (changing the battery or not) for a while.
‘‘But then I jumped up on the table and did it.
‘‘I’m a heavy sleeper, I probably would have slept right through it otherwise.’’
With his house now just a pile of burnt rubble, Mr James has been staying with neighbour and friend, Leon Atkinson, who lives across the road.
His house was insured and he has no plans to leave Barmah, his home of 18 years.
‘‘I want to rebuild. I love the community and Barmah itself, ’’ he said.
Mr James plans to live in a caravan in Mr Atkinsons’ backyard while his own home is rebuilt.
It is the help from the community that Mr James has appreciated, both on the night of the fire and since returning to Barmah.
‘‘People have been fantastic,’’ he said.
‘‘I’ve got everybody’s clothes on (as all of mine were destroyed).
‘‘Certainly the Barmah Fire Brigade was fantastic. And the neighbours, you couldn’t ask for any better.
‘‘I’m grateful to everyone that I’m here to tell the story — that I’m alive.’’
A grief and trauma counsellor at Mooroopna’s Rumbalara Medical Centre, Mr James said his job had helped him cope in the aftermath of the fire.
‘‘My job helped me to understand what shock and trauma is and how it affects you,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s helped me to recover probably more quickly.’’
‘‘I think telling your story always helps.’’
The Bureau of Meteorology has released a severe weather warning for regions that include Shepparton. It includes damaging winds and the potential for flash flooding.
Pete O’Neill and Abby Hicks are national champions at the completion of the 2015 Australian Barefoot Championships held last week.
GVAC women Rachel Pratt and Jacquie Fitzpatrick showed the men, and the large crowd at Rushworth Speedway on Saturday, March 28, they have what it takes when competing in the men’s classes.
Two international backpackers have taken aim at contractors who hired them to pick fruit in the region without payment.
Rochester boxing coach Chris Trewin and his team of dedicated trainers have been hitting the bag for more than six months and the results are beginning to show.
Local MP calls for community applications
A special event will take place at Pioneer Park on Sunday.
Jerilderie's born and bred Madeleine Harris has been recognised for her banking and finance career
Concerned Costerfield residents had the chance to voice their antimony health concerns last week after an independent facilitator was appointed.
Strathmerton clinched a win in the high-scoring game against Mathoura on the weekend in the PDFL North West competition.
Deniliquin swimming dynamo Stephen Dalzell has finished 13th overall in his preferred event at the Australian Age Championships.
Murray Goulburn Co-operative has set a date for a special meeting to vote on a new capital structure.
Emergency services are on scene of a two-car crash on the Midland Hwy, near Benalla. Two people have died. Traffic is being diverted.
Discover unbelievable local deals from local businesses every week in the Goulburn and Murray Valley area with Leapon.com.au!
Search properties for sale or rent across North Central Victoria and Southern NSW. Visit your local website for local homes....
Search for published and unpublished photos from McPherson Media Group newspapers and magazines. All our photos are available to purchase.
Place an advertisement in any one of McPherson Media Group's local newspapers.