An elderly man is in hospital with chest pains brought on by shock after losing his home and all his worldly possessions in a house fire in Bowraville this morning.
Fire and Rescue NSW Bowraville, Macksville and Nambucca crews were called to the scene at 8:47am this morning, and were quickly joined by two rural fire brigades and ambulance crews.
The residence is one of a block of four adjoining units at the Aboriginal Mission on South Arm Road.
The community rallied to put the fire out with pots and pans of water and whatever they could find but were overpowered by the intensity of the blaze.
Neighbours stayed with the man and applied chest compressions until ambulance officers took over.
“It’s a blur now. When I saw the smoke I just took off out the door because my sister-in-law is in the unit just behind with a newborn,” one distraught neighbour said.
“But it just went from bad to worse and the whole thing was alight when firies got here.”
Bowraville’s brigade was the first fire crew on the scene.
“When we got here the unit was completely alight. There was thick black smoke and flames rolling out of the centre unit. Our first priority was a persons check,” Brigade Commander Max Duncan said.
The firemen used thermal imaging equipment to verify that no-one was inside and then made sure that everyone from the adjoining apartments had also been evacuated.
The flames were extinguished in 15 minutes, saving neighbouring units but not the unit where the fire started.
“The crews worked under extremely arduous conditions to prevent the fire from spreading and did an excellent job,” Duty Commander of North Coast Fire and Rescue NSW Tony Lenthall said.
"The Nambucca Valley should be proud to have crews with this level of expertise on hand.”
Fire crews will work with the Aboriginal Land Council and police to investigate the cause of the blaze.
Bowra local Dori was fixing a door in the adjoining unit at the time and was the first to react to the man’s cries for help.
“When I ran in the stove was in flames and it quickly spread to the cupboards above. Our feeble attempts to put it out were no good. I hope that Unc will be OK,” said Dori.
“I don’t know what’s going to be done with him. All his relatives live in far-north Queensland and all he’s got is the clothes on his back. It’s just been such a traumatic morning,” a neighbour said.
Commander Duncan said that winter was the busiest time for firefighters across the state with people using stoves to heat their houses and candles for lighting because of rising electricity costs.
The units are part of the fire brigade’s Home Fire Safety Check program and improvements had recently been made including the installation of fire alarms with new lithium ion batteries, which aided in the safe outcome.
Power remains cut off but residents from the adjoining units are expected to be allowed back into their homes later today.
Neighbours say any donations to the Aboriginal Land Council would be greatly appreciated, (02) 6564 7812.