Lifetime of treasures lost in fire

JOHN McGrath has lost everything.

“Except the wok,” John said. “Everything but my wok.”

Fire gutted John's Sherwood Creek home west of Arrawarra on Monday afternoon, destroying his residence, possessions and vehicles.

“They were all treasures to me, everything I'd accumulated in a lifetime,” he said.

Among his prized possessions was antique furniture handed down to him by his grandparents and five cars he used for spare parts 'here and there'.

Luckily the pensioner, who lives alone, wasn't home at the time of the fire or it might have been a different story.

Neighbours saw smoke on the horizon about 4pm on Monday and sprang into action.

Again, working in John's favour was the fact that most of his neighbours are members of the Rural Fire Service, such as close neighbours Bill and Sue Schweikert from the Sherwood Creek RFS.

“Someone heading along the road saw the smoke and called someone else, who then called someone else and before you knew it there were RFS trucks from Sherwood Creek, Mullaway, Corindi and Country Club on the scene,” Sue, who is the secretary of Sherwood Creek RFS, said.

“We didn't know whether John was in there or not when we got on scene, but luckily he wasn't.

“With the wind, it could have been a lot worse.”

A spokesperson for the RFS said the fire affected the structure and the surrounding bushland.

Four RFS heavy tankers, two light tankers and 21 fire fighters attended the scene, with the fire threatening four hectares of bushland. The day after the blaze, John was visibly shaken and admitted that 'it still hadn't sunk in' that his home had been gutted.

But judging from the response of his neighbours, John may not be homeless for long.

“Already people are talking about what we can do for John, how we can get him back on his feet,” Sue said.

“One thing about living up here, if anything happens, everyone comes along and lends a hand.”

• CAN YOU HELP? If there's anything you can do for John, call Sue on 6649 2335.

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