Young family loses everything in fire
Single mother Nicole Wilson, 23, watched from the street as the Richmond home she shared with her twin toddlers and 5-year-old son burned to a husk.
Her first thought was for her son when she initially saw the fire, which started about 9am yesterday.
"It started in the fireplace, the wood basket and the fireguard were on fire. I panicked."
The 1-year-old twins were staying with their father's family at the time, but their brother was at home with Wilson.
By the time she had got her child safely outside and tried to find a hose in the garden, the blaze had become too big for her to safely re-enter the house. She ran across the road and asked the neighbours to call the fire brigade.
Richmond station officer Craig Clayworth said the fire was fully involved when rescue services arrived, but it was mostly under control by 10am.
Wilson, clad in slippers, pyjamas and a blanket, watched from the footpath with her son as the front of their Wilde Ave house was engulfed.
Four fire engines were at the scene, from both Richmond and Stoke as well as police and ambulance.
Clayworth said the fire was found to be caused by a wooden screen that had stood too close to a fireplace, causing it to dry out over time and eventually ignite. The flames had spread from the screen to a wood basket and an armchair before engulfing the room.
He said smoke alarms had been found in the house, but they had no batteries. If they had been working, Clayworth said, they would have given early notice of the fire and the scale of the blaze might have been reduced.
"There's a good safety message there: people should make sure that their smoke alarms are working properly and have batteries in."
Eighty per cent of the house was damaged. Clayworth estimated most was due to fire, and the rest was caused by smoke, heat and water. "In the rooms that weren't on fire, the heat from the fire has melted TVs, fittings, any plastic that's around."
Family friend Karen Limes said Wilson had no insurance. She had been renting the house, and most of her belongings had been lost.
"She just ran out the door and left everything - phone, car keys."
Her car was only slightly damaged but Limes said its missing keys would be expensive to replace. The twins, a boy and girl, had arrived home shortly after the fire, and the family were now staying in Richmond with a friend.
Limes said she hoped the community would help get the woman back on her feet as she was badly shaken by her near miss.
"She's had a hard couple of months. She's the loveliest girl you could ever meet."
Those wishing to donate items to Wilson can contact the New Pay it Forward group on Facebook.
Wilson thanked those who had already offered their help on Facebook yesterday. She said she had been "blown away" by all the support, and her main concern was that her children and pets were safe.
"Such a horrible thing to happen. Wouldn't wish it upon anybody, but can only look forward for my children and start all over again."