By Jackson Russell
Country Fire Authority District 12 operations officer Justin Dally has urged caution after a spate of house fires in the Mitchell Shire.
CFA crews have attended five house fires in the last month alone, mostly in Kilmore and Wallan, and primarily caused from pots being left on the stove or candles left burning.
Mr Dally said the CFA needed the community’s help to prevent house fires.
“Unfortunately the damage has already been done and the anguish it causes is already done but there are some measures that will help stop the fire occurring,” he said.
Mr Dally said making sure smoke alarms were functional was crucial.
“Test your batteries, replace your batteries and make sure its less than 10 years old. Smoke alarms are your first early warning alarm,” he said.
Chimneys are also a fire hazard if not maintained properly.
Mr Dally said wood fire heaters were designed to have fire in them but chimneys were not.
He said over time, soot could build up in a chimney or flume and can start a fire.
“Since chimneys aren’t designed to carry flame, the fire can spread to the structure of the house and catch fire to the roof or within the roof space,” he said.
“To help us help the community, ensure your chimney is regularly inspected and cleaned.”
Electric devices and chargers are also fire hazards if left plugged in and unattended.
“We’re trying to stop that pain and that hurt but we can’t do it alone, we need everyone’s help,” Mr Dally said.
A Kilmore family who lost their house to fire two weeks ago were left devastated by the damage.
Lauren Knight warned people how easily a house fire could happen.
The fire started early in the morning after her partner Michael Gillard left to go hunting.
Ms Knight lit an incense stick and when she came back minutes later, the curtains and roof were already ablaze.
Ms Knight said it felt like 45 minutes between seeing flames and getting outside safely, but it was just six minutes before the whole house was engulfed.
“I heard crackling and I walked out and looked down to the hallway and could just see the orange glow,” she said.
“I thought surely not, this can’t be happening. I walked around the corner and the whole curtain, from the incense stick to up and across the roof, was in flames.
“It was within not even a minute of lighting the stick. It was a complete and utter freak accident and it can happen so easily.”
A Kilmore family has been overwhelmed by community support after losing their family home to a fire two weeks ago.
Lauren Knight and Michael Gillard have almost been able to fill an entire house with the donations they’ve received from a single Facebook post.
Ms Knight said her sister-in-law Tayla Britton started a GoFundMe to help the couple recoup some of their losses and the post proved popular.
“She’s almost single-handedly organised donations to fill a new house. We’ve got everything we need pretty much. Except for a queen bed and a few kitchen appliances, everything’s been replaced,” she said.
“It’s amazing, it’s really overwhelming to think there are so many generous people out there that would just give to someone they don’t know.”
The post on the Kilmore, Wallan and Local Community Page on Facebook received 85 comments from people wanting to help and the GoFundMe has raised nearly $3200 in just over a week.
Ms Knight said people they haven’t spoken to in years had contacted them and offered to help.
“One of my old friends who I haven’t spoken to in years, he came down and got us all the white goods and had boxes of new linen for the girls, teddies, toys and clothes, everything,” she said.
“My friend posted on his Facebook and a friend of his donated $1000 and he doesn’t even know us. His sister went on Facebook Live while she was shopping for the girls, she got them new toys and toiletries and that got people to donate as well.”
“I wish I could thank every single person individually but it would be impossible because there are so many people who have put it.”
Ms Knight, Mr Gillard and their daughters Jayla and Allira have also received overwhelming emotional support from family, friends and even past clients of their family business.
To help the family, visit https://www.gofundme.com/family-in-need-after-devastating-house-fire.