Communities rally to help fire victims
THE Miller family feared a terrible part of history was being repeated as they watched their Farnborough home go up in flames early yesterday morning.
Eleven years ago Allan, 54, and Priscilla Miller, 67, lost two of their grandchildren in a caravan fire near their Hinz Avenue home.
It was an event that rocked the family and not something they thought they would have to live through again.
But yesterday morning as they watched fire investigators go through the ash that was once their home, Mr and Mrs Miller were thankful that this time everyone got out alive.
After midnight yesterday, Mr and Mrs Miller and their daughter Erin, who had travelled in from Winton for Christmas, woke to the smell of smoke.
Erin tried calling 000 but as flames started licking the walls of the cypress pine highset home, she and her parents had to flee.
Her older sister Wendy was staying in a caravan behind the house and she too made it to safety. Mr Miller grabbed the garden hose to try to douse the flames but it was no use.
It took 20 minutes for the Miller home of 31 years to be reduced to rubble.
All the family could do was watch.
Four dogs and two cats were saved from the rural property about 100 metres from Farnborough State School, but some of the family's pet birds were killed in the fire.
Still in shock yesterday morning the couple were being comforted by their family and friends at their daughter, Kim Miller's home next door.
More family arrived last night and more will come today from Biloela, Emerald and Blackwater because even in the midst of this tragedy, the Millers are still determined to celebrate Christmas.
"Every year for as long as I can remember we have had Christmas at the barbecue area of Mum and Dad's house,'' Kim said.
"And this year we had bought thousands of dollars worth of presents, but everything is gone,'' her sister Wendy added.
"We had all the food, we were going to have Christmas with all the trimmings.''
Mr Miller said he had lost about $1000 worth of fishing gear he recently bought, a boat, two cars, all household goods, beds, television, a new digital video camera, a computer, air-conditioners, two rain tanks (which were full of water), two ride-on mowers, medication, clothes, personal items, photographs and so much more.
The spirit of Christmas has shone through in Central Queensland though.
For almost 40 years, Mr Miller has worked for Livingstone Shire Council and his workmates rallied to support him.
A council car has been given to Mr and Mrs Miller to use over the Christmas break and his workmates have found accommodation for the couple over Christmas at a Yeppoon hotel.
After Christmas they have organised for them to stay in a council home for a couple of months while they get their lives back on track.
The community has also ensurured the family still has a feast on Christmas Day with food coming from Woody's Supermarket and Bi Lo Supermarket. LSC chief executive officer Peter Franks said Farnborough Store and Ian Weigh Motors on the Capricorn Coast had also offered assistance.
"It has really been a community response,'' he said.
As well as the council, radio stations like 4RO, and Winton Shire Council, where Erin works, also started appeals.
Kim Miller is also taking calls for donations for her parents.
Anyone who can help can call 4933?0320.