The Touzel family was lucky to escape the inferno that engulfed their Sandy Beach house this week.
The Touzel family was lucky to escape the inferno that engulfed their Sandy Beach house this week. Trevor Veale

Dreams up in smoke

THE acrid smell of smoke, blackened rooms and scorched furniture are what Mitch Touzel now contends with as he walks through his fire-ravaged home.

But at least he, his partner Ashlee Chalinor and their two-month-old, Bella, got out alive.

The young family was still settling into their dream home on Turpentine Avenue at Sandy Beach when the blaze broke out late on Tuesday.

They’ve lost the entire upper section of the split-level house including the bedrooms, all of Bella’s baby gear and a storage area, not to mention irreplaceable family photos.

“I am devastated,” Mitch said. “The house went up pretty quick but Ashlee was able to get Bella out.”

Alex arrived home from work to be greeted by a fleet of fire trucks, ambulances and police vehicles in his front yard.

The dramatic chain of events unfolded about 4.30pm when Ashlee switched on a wall heater in the main bedroom to make it warm enough for Bella to have a sleep.

But minutes later, the wall plaster overheated and the heater crashed onto the pillows below. The soft furnishings quickly caught alight and the flames raced through the upper level of the home.

A shrilling smoke alarm alerted Ashlee to the impending danger and she was able to grab her daughter and flee to safety.

A 17-year-old neighbour tried to douse the flames but by then, the fire engulfed the top part of the house.

Two Woolgoolga firefighters were taken to hospital for observation at the height of the drama – one collapsed with chest pain and the other suffered an electric shock to the back of his hand.

Officers donned breathing apparatus to battle the blaze and were at the scene for more than two hours. They reported extensive smoke, heat and water damage to the home.

Firefighters also used thermal imaging equipment to make sure there were no hotspots in the ceiling.



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