Rob and Shelley Kirkpatrick’s home at Costerfield was reduced to ash and rubble after a fire on Sunday.By Barbara Sungaila
Rob and Shelley Kirkpatrick are counting their blessings after their Costerfield home burned to the ground on Sunday.
The couple, along with Rob’s son Jarrad, were not inside the Cochranes Rd house when the fire started shortly after 5pm.
Mr Kirkpatrick said they had just come back to the house after working on the property.
‘‘It was feet up time,’’ he said.
‘‘Shell had started feeding the racehorses — Jarrad and I had been fencing all day and he’d gone to help.’’
Mr Kirkpatrick said he went to shut the gate behind the last of the horses.
‘‘As I turned around there was this big billow of black smoke out of the dead centre of the house.’’
He ran to the house and opened the front door.
‘‘The roof at the start of the hallway was on fire,’’ he said.
Mr Kirkpatrick rushed to a hose near the house, but the building was rapidly engulfed by flames.
‘‘By the time I managed to get the hose and get back
‘‘I was standing in the doorway. It seemed forever but
‘‘Then the power cut out so we had no pump (and no water).
‘‘The only thing I thought of was the computer which has got lots of photos and videos on it.
‘‘It was in the back end of the dining room.
‘‘And I ran in and all I had on was my pants and my boots — I didn’t have a shirt on or anything.
‘‘The heat was just absolutely excruciating,’’ Mr Kirkpatrick said.
‘‘The smoke was that thick
‘‘It’s like the air has viscosity to it when you’re trying to breathe.’’
He managed to grab the computer, although Mrs Kirkpatrick said the case had already started to melt.
‘‘At the time we thought our phones were still in the house but I’d been working in my veggie patch all day,’’ she said.
‘‘My phone was actually sitting over there but we didn’t find it till later — I had to go next door to ring 000.’’
Mr Kirkpatrick said it was at least five minutes before the fire brigade was alerted and the fire took hold with astonishing speed.
‘‘By the time the CFA got here seven-eighths of the house was engulfed in flames,’’ he said.
‘‘And we were standing back, the next door neighbours were here, and we just couldn’t do anything.
‘‘We couldn’t do a thing — we just had to stand there and watch it burn.’’
However, firefighters managed to save the shed.
Mrs Kirkpatrick said they had replaced a makeshift kitchen just over a year ago and had added granite benchtops two months ago and new flooring within the last fortnight.
‘‘The house is only seven years old,’’ Mr Kirkpatrick said.
It had been a labour of love, finished with help from friends and family.
‘‘We did all the inside of the house ourselves,’’ he said.
The couple were insured and plan to rebuild.
And despite the devastation to the house, all their animals escaped unharmed.
The Kirkpatricks initially thought their chickens and cat had been lost in the fire.
‘‘Shell’s two chooks were out yesterday arvo and they spend a lot of time under the house scratching around,’’ Mr Kirkpatrick said.
‘‘We’d just about finished (with the fire brigade) and these two chooks waltzed out of the feeders in the back of the shed.
‘‘I said, ‘Shell come and look at this, the bloody chooks made it!’’’
The cat also escaped.
The couple said they have been overwhelmed by messages of support.
‘‘It’s been incredible though, (the phone) hasn’t stopped,’’ Mrs Kirkpatrick said.
‘‘Rob works at the racetrack in Bendigo of a morning, (they have) just been unreal.’’
Mr Kirkpatrick said the people there were great.
‘‘They’re like a family,’’ he said.
‘‘If somebody has a problem, everybody just jumps together and says let’s have a crack.’’
They are still coming to terms with the scale of what happened.
‘‘I’m sure there’ll be plenty of laughs, and tears,’’ Mr Kirkpatrick said.
‘‘I’m still numb. We’ll wake up soon,’’ Mrs Kirkpatrick said.
The fire was attended by crews from Heathcote, Costerfield and Tooborac fire brigades.
The cause of the blaze is unknown although, according to Heathcote fire brigade captain Shane Nixon, the combination of pine lining boards in a weatherboard exterior contributed to the speed of the fire.
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