By Derek Schlennstedt
It’s hard to convey the meaning of home – it’s a place of sanctuary, of irreplaceable memories, and is often built by the heart rather than the hands.
Yarra Valley residents are all too aware of the devastating impact that fires can have on individuals and a community, and so our thoughts go out to anyone who loses a house; whether through bushfire or house fire we come together to help those in need.
Warburton’s Hellicar and Thompson-Stokkell families were left devastated on 1 October after a fire started just after midnight and destroyed both houses.
The fire was believed to have been electrical and began in the Hellicars before spreading quickly through to the neighbour’s house.
Warburton CFA captain Hazel Crozier, described the fire as the “most significant structure fire our brigade has seen in over a decade.”
“As we arrived, the house was fully involved, it was obviously a very intense fire and spread rapidly throughout that building and then impacted into the next door neighbour’s house,” she said.
“You could see the glow as we were driving there … a huge glow across the sky,”
For the Hellicars, the only warning they had was the blaring sound of the smoke alarm and the yells from Nina’s partner Ben who was awake at the time.
“My mum’s partner, Ben, was awake, and screaming for everyone to get out, the smoke alarm was going off, we were all asleep,” Nina’s daughter, Lily Hellicar said.
The fast growing fire spread rapidly, engulfing the entire house within minutes – with the Hellicars only having time to grab the bare essentials.
Lily (21) said, she and her sister Rosie (13) awoke to a cloud of smoke and had little time to react.
“There was smoke everywhere … we were all still half asleep, I couldn’t really comprehend what was happening,” Lily said.
“I ran a sheet under the shower upstairs, and I didn’t make it downstairs before the fire grew, it was that fast.”
After evacuating the house Nina immediately ran to the neighbours to alert them of the fire.
The family of four has since begun to look to the future and although they have shared “lots of tears” Lily said the response from the community and family and friends had been overwhelming.
“We’re all pretty numb and still processing, it’s surreal.”
“We’ve had lots of tears, but we’re okay, the response from the community has been amazing, we’ve been quite overwhelmed from the response … Monday morning we already had a bag of clothes for us … It’s been incredible.”
The Hellicars only moved to Warburton two year ago, an area in which the family had always wanted to live.
“We’ve wanted to live here forever,” Lily said.
There is a donations account for the Hellicars to help the family with immediate necessities.
The account details with Warburton Bendigo Community Bank are BSB number: 633 000 and account number: 153 265 822.
A GoFundMe campaign has also been started to help Nina and the neighbouring Thompson-Stokkel family who also lost their house and contents. To donate visit https://www.gofundme.com/thompson-stokkell-fund
The Hellicars are also still missing two of their cats, who respond to the names Scout and Trout and are black and tabby in colour.