A series of explosions jolted Macksville on Saturday night, sending waves of worry throughout the town and social media.
The Macksville Fire and Rescue crew came burning around the corner of Mackay and West Sts just after midnight to find the storage shed for Laser ‘n’ Lights Party Hire completely engulfed in flames.
Footage supplied to Guardian News
The shed abuts the rental property where business owners, Pauline and Mark Matheson, their three children, a dog, a cat and doves live.
It also backs onto another local business, Robert Peatfield’s Television Repairs, which sustained some damage as a result of the fire and explosions.
Fire fighters took over an hour to extinguish the noxious flames with foam retardant, but were able to stop significant spread of the fire to the neighbouring buildings.
Pauline, Mark, and their youngest daughter were home at the time of the fire, but, thankfully, all (including pets) escaped physically unharmed.
Tragically, they have lost the majority of their business equipment and will need to find somewhere else to live after the house was yesterday declared “uninhabitable” by Coffs Harbour building inspectors.
“Except for a few inflatables that we had in the front yard, everything’s gone,” Pauline said.
“Slushie machines, all our lights and balloons, and about 200 chairs and tables – all just melted into nothing.
“Basically the only thing that survived in the shed was the helium tank, because it’s not flammable, but our LPG tank exploded and so did a stack of bamboo we had, which is what everyone would have heard.
And we’re not insured; this kind of thing just happens to everyone else, you know.
Pauline said Mark went to do a routine lock-up of the shed at around 11pm that night, then came in to have a shower.
When he got out, he quizzed Pauline and their daughter whether they too could smell something weird.
As he rushed outside to investigate, the shed was already ablaze, and flames were starting to escape and catch onto the back windows of their house.
The whole family exited in a panic, with Pauline desperately calling for help from neighbours while trying to contact emergency services, while Mark went to find whatever he could to battle the flames himself.
“They always say that fires go up fast … it was so scary, this one went up so fast, I couldn’t believe it,” Pauline said.
“When the firies arrived I was screaming obscenities at Mark to try to get him out of the house – he’s not a quitter, you see – he was in there with a garden hose trying to stop it.”
Pauline said neighbours helped by taking their daughter and dog into a nearby house for safety, while Fire and Rescue crews from Macksville, Nambucca Heads, and Bowraville, and RFS teams all battled to extinguish the flames.
“I just want to thank the firies and the ambos,” Pauline said.
“They let us stay in the ambulance for I-don’t-know-how-many hours because the smoke was just that thick and acrid – my lungs are still hurting now.”
The family is currently being housed by friends in Nambucca but are unsure at this point what they will do going forward.
“I’m devastated, to be honest with you,” Pauline said.
“But I guess we’re lucky that all of us, including cat, dog and doves are all alive.”
Fire and Rescue NSW Duty Commander North Coast Tony Lenthall said the sheer amount of damage to the shed, which eventually collapsed, made it too difficult for fire crews to work out how the fire had started.
But police are not treating the blaze as suspicious, saying it was likely caused by an electrical fault.
“There will be no further investigation,” Chief Inspector Guy Flaherty said.