Leanne Brown fought the good fight. But in the end it wasn’t enough.
“It was like an inferno, it was massive,” she told the Gazette last Friday, the day after the fires ravaged her home at 42 Moray Street.
Tossing aside the garden hose, she escaped with her two dogs and the clothes on her back, forgetting her handbag in the process as she ran down the street for help in absolute terror.
“The water pressure was down, it came so quick the caravan was alight and I started running up the driveway with the dogs.”
Her husband, David Brown, Glenbrook Public School’s principal, was away on school camp and unable to return until the evening after the fire.
“We sheltered across the road in the garage of a house that as a street we have determined is the safest place to make as a meeting point, the big concrete one across the road,” Mrs Brown said.
“We watched the fire burn up between the houses, everywhere, begin to burn our caravan then ignite the vacant block which was full of low shrubs and undergrowth,” she said.
“It just took off. We were there until the police told us to get out. I couldn’t get to my transport. My great neighbours, Liz and Malcolm Moore, took me and my dogs in their car to Whitecross Road shops. When we left the street the fire was in the gutters of their house - their house still stands.”
Jo and Neil Richardson stayed and battled the fire at Moray. “I was hysterical but I knew Neil wouldn’t leave,” Mrs Richardson said.
Their house at no 12 still stands, but homes have gone at 20, 22, 24, 26, 30 and beyond. One
confirmed they had no insurance. Noel Willis called it “total devastation”. He spent Friday searching the street for his cat Maisie he is hoping “shot through” to safety. His neighbours Joe and Lillian Andrade saved their photos but little else.
Pets were on many residents’ minds. Lorette and Andrew Seckold’s 23-year-old son Karl drove into the fire zone to make a dramatic rescue of their German shepherd, Bronx, at 28 Moray.
“He said the house was black with smoke, the windows were glowing red,” Mrs Seckold said. “He got Bronx but couldn’t find Chi Chi [their other dog].”
“He wanted to go back but the police got him out, thank god he didn’t.”
Their granddaughter Andi-Marie, holding hands with mum Crystal the morning after in the rubbles of Granny’s home, was visibly shaken by the carnage. “It smells bad,” she said.
Many people are “landing at Granny’s place” or other relatives, but by midnight on Friday more than 26,000 people had read a post on the Gazette’s Facebook page with offers of free temporary accommodation by a Wentworth Falls real estate agency.
Some have been able to see the lighter side of things. At 156 Hawkesbury Road where the house is for sale and the owners were on the verge of
signing contracts. The home has completely gone.
“Do you think I should still do an open home on Saturday?” owner Pat Minney joked.
That gallows humour was apparent everywhere, the best defence in harrowing times.
Belinda ‘Bee’ Thompson whose home is standing but damaged in Buena Vista Road, found it hard to find the right words.
“My mother-in-law’s [house is gone], half the street is gone, I can’t find words as we walked down our street, we said nothing but cried in bewilderment.”
The Blue Mountains community has rallied behind fire victims. Deputy Mayor and Winmalee resident Brendan Luchetti said “that’s the thing with this disaster — every person in Springwood knows a handful of people who have lost homes”.
At Paget Court, donations were being dropped to Amanda Beckett’s house on the corner for the three houses that were destroyed by the fire. Jenni and Rod Webster were grateful, posting on facebook “we will be humble and take anything... we have nothing... thank you for all your generosity and kindness, we’re a little numb”.
At 21 Paulwood Avenue, Lonza Shiels, 70, “had lost everything,” said son Craig, who had grown up there. She was at his home now and too upset to visit the flattened site.