Ocean Shores rallies around fire victim
By Patrizia Reimer
AGE may have slowed the?s body but a razor-sharp mind kept Alan Ladner safe from harm on Wednesday night when a fire nearly destroyed his home.
The quick-thinking 83-year-old Ocean Shores man noticed smoke coming from his air-conditioning unit at about 7pm.
He tried to switch it off at the power point but it was alight and fell out, spewing flames, when he touched it.
The flames, until then trapped behind the wall, seemed to feed off the exposed air and Alan knew there was no time.
He rang the fire brigade and he and his visiting 82-year-old cousin, Nina Cochrane, left the house straight away.
This may well have saved their lives because the fire took hold quickly, filling the top floor of the two-storey Dyum Place home with smoke and blowing out the windows.
??When the room filled with smoke, that was it. I just thought about getting out. I rang the fire brigade and then got out. I don??t think I thought about anything in the way of possessions,?? he said.
??The neighbours were wonderful. Somebody got me a chair and a rug and somebody brought down a cup of tea and biscuits.
??At the time I was quite calm. I was just watching and thinking ??I wish they??d hurry up and get here??. I could see the flames coming out and I was frightened the trees would catch alight.
??Then all I could see was the fire brigade with flashing lights. I couldn??t hear a thing they were saying to me, there was too much noise.
??It was one of the most upsetting things to see your house go up in flames. It??s not very pleasant.??
It took the fire brigade less than 10 minutes to arrive from nearby Brunswick Heads where, as luck would have it, the fireys were conducting their monthly drill and were all assembled, ready to attend.
They were soon joined by the Mullumbimby unit, Tweed Heads Hazmat unit, and the ambulance and police.
Northern Rivers NSW Fire Brigade duty commander, Inspector Chris Fabri, said when crews were establishing if everyone in the home was accounted for, Alan told them his beloved pet cat Gaylee was missing.
After containing the fire a pair of firefighters entered the home and quickly found the 17-year-old short-haired Himalayan, bringing her down.
??The poor thing. We got out and she got up on to the balcony and she was miaowing down,?? said Alan.
??But the fireman got her and brought her down. She??s been pampered all her life. She??s a house cat, but she was all right when she came out. Scared of course, but all right.?? One of the Brunswick Heads firefighters sustained superficial burns to his right arm and shoulder when he was going upstairs.
Inspector Fabri said a partial roof collapse forced him against a metal stairway which burned him.
He was taken to hospital as part of fire brigade procedure, but did not suffer any serious injury.
Alan moved up from Melbourne some 28 years ago.
He has been living on his own since his wife died in 1995.
Insurance assessors yesterday told Alan that the entire top floor would need to be rebuilt and would take five months.
He is currently staying with friends a few streets away but may be provided with temporary accommodation during construction.