GARAGE FIRE HITS A SOUR NOTE
By CRAIG McTEAR
WHEN Richard Bickhoff saw flames leaping high from his garage, he knew straight away he had lost an old friend.
His 'good English Marshall & Rose' grand piano had been his pride and joy for 30 years. To discover it charred almost beyond recognition yesterday morning was a huge blow.
"It really shouldn't have been stored in the garage, but it wouldn't fit in my unit," Richard said.
"I was contemplating selling it in the next few weeks."
The piano meant much more to Richard than the $5000 pricetag. Quite simply, playing it was his pleasure.
It would have been bad enough if an electrical fault had sparked the fire, but the fact hoodlums stole a car and torched it outside Richard's garage is incomprehensible.
"One resents people who don't care for other people, who don't feel for what other people are doing, and who have no regard for the consequences of their actions," he said.
The 67-year-old retiree had rolled over and gone back to sleep after hearing a car horn blasting on the street below his Toormina Place unit just after midnight.
But a crackling sound and the noise of breaking glass soon commanded his full attention.
He peered through his bedroom window and saw flames dancing in the darkness.
Richard rugged up and rushed into the night to see a car ablaze at the bottom of the driveway. The Holden Astra, according to police, had been stolen from Park Avenue earlier that night, some time between 5pm and 7pm.
The flames quickly spread to Richard's garage and wreaked havoc despite the best efforts of fire crews. But they did manage to stop the fire spreading to nearby apartments.
As the flames took hold, residents in the unit block were roused from their sleep by concerned neighbours frantically banging on their doors.
One woman reported hearing a group of people in the street just before the fire broke out.
Richard also lost the old radio he and his mother bought when he first entered the workforce, the record collection he's had since he was a teenager, and piles of sheet music.
"There's stuff in here you can't replace," he said.
"I'm feeling quite nostalgic and sad."
Not even his brushcutter, chainsaw, cutlery, lampshade, drawers or chairs were spared.
"Thankfully, my own car wasn't in there. It was stored in another carport."
But one of Richard's neighbours wasn't so lucky. Her grey 1995 Volkswagen Golf, worth $7000 or more, was parked in the bay next to his and was badly damaged.
The poor woman probably won't find out what happened until she returns from overseas.
If you can help with the investigation, contact Coffs Harbour police on 6652 0299.