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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Lessons to be learned

A grass fire at Lancaster was diverted by fire crews moments before it reached a 120-year-old home.

January 23, 2013 4:49am

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Denise Raftis had no idea there was a grass fire rapidly approaching her home when she opened her front door last Thursday afternoon.

‘‘I had no clue what was happening, not even the slightest inkling that anything was wrong,’’ Ms Raftis said.

‘‘I’d been working in my office with the air conditioner on and the blinds down and was just starting to get ready to go out to an appointment when I heard someone knocking frantically at my door.

‘‘When I went out there were people in my driveway, my neighbour Barry Hubble and two people I’d never met before.

‘‘Barry had already knocked earlier but had thought I was out.’’

Father and daughter David and Jessica Adams had seen the smoke, called 000 to report the rapidly spreading grass fire and then driven to Ms Raftis home to check if anyone there was safe.

‘‘When they said there was a huge fire approaching fast I didn’t believe them at first,’’ Ms Raftis said.

‘‘Then I could hear it coming. It was just horrible, the smoke, heat and noise, crackling and roaring, and when I looked round the back I could see flames the height of the trees and there were also flames under the shed.

‘‘I’ve lived here 25 years and I never thought I’d see something like that and I don’t ever want to see it again.’’

The fire came within 5m of the front verandah of the 120-year-old house and was just catching the nearest trees when a helicopter dropped water on it, saving the house just in time.

Ms Raftis said she had not known what do to.

‘‘I didn’t have a fire plan, the fire had already burnt hoses at the back and I couldn’t even find my car keys at first,’’ she said.

‘‘I was trying to get my animals in and grab some photos and my computer, just not really knowing what to do because I’d never expected anything like this.

‘‘I’m so grateful to the people who came and knocked. That young girl kept me sane while it was all happening.’’

Ms Raftis had picked up a Fire Ready Kit from the Post Office just the day before.

‘‘I’d said to my partner we need to have a fire plan and we agreed to sit down and go through it together at the weekend, and then the next day this happens,’’ she said.

‘‘If you have a plan drawn up at least you have something systematic to follow in the event of an emergency.’’

24 hours after the fire Ms Raftis said she still could not relax.

‘‘I just keep smelling burnt grass and we have to keep checking as there have been a couple of small spot fires today,’’ she said.

‘‘The whole thing has been a big lesson.’’

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