Neighbours 'terrified' as Ballina home burns down
A MOTHER and her three children have been left homeless after their East Ballina house caught on fire in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Emergency services attended the Pine Ave home of Jacque Ashworth at about 1.25am on Tuesday.
"The occupants of a home in Pine Ave East Ballina woke up to the sound (crackling) fire and could smell smoke," Richmond Police District crime prevention officer Senior Constable David Henderson said.
"The occupant walked to her son's room and woke him up and went upstairs and saw flames on the front veranda.
"Emergency Services were called, and two fire brigade appliances arrived a short time later and extinguished the fire with no person injured.
"Once the fire was extinguished Fire inspectors established the fire originated at the bottom of a stair case and funnelled up the timber veranda. The home unfortunately sustained major damage as a result of the fire."
Waking to the crackling noise of the fire and the flashing lights of emergency service crews, Sharon Barrie, who lives next door to the damaged property, said it was a "terrifying" experience for the whole neighbourhood.
"I woke up and thought it was a traffic accident with the red lights flashing," Ms Barrie said.
"I could see the flames on this side of the house. I tried to find my son, but he was actually trying to get the people out of the house. He had got the ladder from downstairs and made a bridge to get the little boy and woman out of that (burning) part of the house.
"The police arrived and told us to get out because there were explosions with little things they said were asbestos that were burning. It was very smoky.
"We couldn't see the extent of the damage until about 5am because that's when the rain came."
Ms Barrie, who's house is built only metres away from her neighbour's home, said: "My brick fence saved my place".
"It's just been such a stressful night for us all. It's terrifying to have something like this happen so close to your house."
Shannon McKellar-McLoughlin, who lives nearby, said it was a chaotic scene as emergency services rushed to evacuate neighbours amid fears the blaze would spread.
"It was horrible to witness someone's home (get destroyed) like that," she said.
"Then I started to wake the neighbours; they were still asleep.
"The homes are way too close together there, plus have units underneath.
"It was (scary) but I was more worried for the (other) people... one resident was an elderly lady that was asleep and didn't wake until I was yelling and she smelt smoke."
The online fundraiser explains Ms Ashworth has lost "everything".
"No shoes, no clothes, no wallet, no car keys, all just gone," funderaiser organiser Natalie Keene said.
"If we can pool enough money right now to help her out that'd be a good start.
"She'll need a new place to live too so we're raising money for her new bond, but also she's lost all her things..., school stuff, all their important documents, computers and her all precious skates, not to mention their home, beds, swags, clothes."
Ballina business owner Toni-Ann Stamp has also started collecting items for the Ashworth family, such as toiletries, cosmetics, clothing, which can be dropped off at TA's Lunchbox at 263 River St, Ballina.
"If something went wrong with me I would like someone to help out. In today's world, it's nice to help."
Meanwhile, Sen-Const Henderson is urging everyone to be "vigilant" and watch for any potential fire hazard within the home.
"As we get closer to the cooler months of the year with heaters and fire places about to be used, police are reminding people to be vigilant and make sure objects around a heater are far enough away not to catch alight," he said.
"Check your fire flues and have them cleaned if needed, but most of all be responsible around heaters and fires."