PENINNA West has been amazed by the generosity of her neighbourhood.
There was little to be retrieved from her East Ballina duplex home after it was gutted by fire in the early hours of yesterday morning.
"We're surviving off the kindness of strangers," Peninna said.
"The community in this area has been amazing - the way people have come together to help someone they wouldn't know from a bar of soap."
She said the loss of the uninsured belongings in the Antrim St home was "devastating", but she was keeping a positive attitude.
"You've got to move on," she said, quoting the lyric "from ashes grow the roses of success".
She and her partner Jaymox escaped with the clothes on their backs while also managing to save a pet bird and a motorbike.
Peninna was thankful she and her partner were unharmed, and grateful the fire didn't spread next door.
The fire began about 4.20am.
Peninna said the smoke alarm didn't sound, but her partner woke to find the fridge on fire.
Within a few minutes a bookcase was on fire, and within about 10 minutes the ceiling began caving in.
"It went up quickly," she said.
Captain Dennis Henry of NSW Fire and Rescue's Ballina brigade said two fire trucks crewed by 14 firefighters took about 20 minutes to have the fire under control.
He said a fire wall between the two duplexes saved the second unit from major fire damage.
He said it was "devastating" to see local people lose uninsured possessions.
While he said there could be a variety of reasons why the couple's smoke alarm didn't sound, he said the incident was a timely reminder for others to check their smoke alarms and batteries.
The couple received a gift voucher from Kmart via the Salvation Army.