Couple lose everything in fire: ‘The embers fell down on us’
WOODBURY couple Petria and Greg Stack were soaring down their driveway in their car with just the clothes on their back, their tablets, Petria's purse, and Greg's glasses, as a raging wall of fire engulfed their home behind them.
The 72-year-old pensioners had just sat down for tea minutes before on November 9 when the phone rang.
It was their son, Glen, who had just heard from their neighbour that a fire was burning on top of a hill behind their home.
"If the phone hadn't rung, we would've been gone, too," Petria said.
They jumped to their feet and as they approached the back of their house, they saw a ferocious wall of fire barrelling down the hill, just a couple of hundred metres away.
"The embers were falling down on us. We could feel the heat," she said.
"Nothing could stop it."
Terrified and still shaken, the couple went to their son's home in Lammermoor, still in shock days later over what had happened.
Time and time again, they would go to get something and realise it was now gone.
Everything was gone.
"We were just so shocked," Petria said.
"The grief didn't come until later. The next day we were still thinking about things and every time we turned around we realised we didn't have that any more.
"The pain of it came afterwards."
After staying with their son Glen and his wife Pam, they decided to return to where their home once was to try to salvage what they could from the ashes.
For Petria, the sentimental things were the most important to find - including her engagement and eternity ring.
"My husband was sifting through with a sieve one day when I was at the doctor and he found them. It was the greatest relief," Petria said through tears.
However, after days of searching with their family, they found nothing else.
All their medical records (for Petria's auto immune disease and her husband's illnesses), paperwork, photos, their caravan, monuments from their lives and a 100-year-old dining table and chairs passed down from Greg's grandmother had been lost.
Priceless, sentimental things that could never be replaced and everyday things that we all take for granted.
Petria and Greg are now staying in a family friend's granny flat, unable to even contemplate yet what they will do - taking it all day by day.
"We want to thank all the people who have helped us with their donations, food and clothing," she said.
"Big W was kind enough to give us some clothes because we only had what we had on that night. That was very generous.
"And all the community organisations who have been offering their help. It's very humbling for us because we had never asked for anything.
"Everything is gone but we are still here. We can't be replaced and we have to be pragmatic. Life goes on. We have to look at that side of things."
Unfortunately, the couple did not have insurance, and so their daughter Shelley Scott decided to launch a GoFundMe campaign to help them back on their feet.
In just five days, the campaign has raised over $6000.
"It's just wonderful. We can't believe how people can be so kind and care about us to do that," Petria said.
Shelley said the look on her parents' faces was devastating.
"It's too hard to put into words," she said.
"The weight of what they've lost - 70 years of memories and treasures.
"I'm worried about them. They are pensioners with no insurance. They couldn't have it because their home was a liveable shed.
"If they had insurance I wouldn't have done a GoFundMe page but we have nowhere else to turn."
Despite their hesitation, the couple eventually gave permission for the campaign to go online.
"I said 'You've lost everything and it's not like we have a million dollars to replace it. You need to accept the gracious thoughts of others and come to accept that you need help'," Shelley said.
"The people who have donated are so kind. I can't describe that feeling. To know that there are wonderful people out there like that. There's a feeling of guilt in having to ask but the community has been amazing."
HOW TO HELP
Visit the GoFundMe page here