CLOSE CALL: Caniaba resident John Russell surveys the damage yesterday after a bushfire that almost engulfeding their home.
CLOSE CALL: Caniaba resident John Russell surveys the damage yesterday after a bushfire that almost engulfeding their home.

On a cat and a prayer, Caniaba residents escape raging blaze

By ZOE SATHERLEY

WITH a raging fire bearing down on their Caniaba home, Judy and John Russell grabbed what was most important to them ? their cats and their Bibles.

As the fire swept perilously close on Wednesday, Jensen the 'outdoor cat' and Charlie Brown, the 'indoor cat' were bundled into the car.

The rivals were so traumatised by the thick smoke, fire engine wails and fast-approaching flames that they didn't bother with their usual hissing and clawing antics.

"It was really scary. We all thought we would never see our house again," Judy said.

Earlier, the couple had ensured Judy's parents, Eric and Pam Ritchie, who live with them, were evacuated to a neighbour's property.

"Dad had a stroke three years ago and suffers from a bit of dementia, so he was quite confused and didn't want to leave the house," Judy said.

"We had trouble convincing him to leave, but had to get him out early as he has difficulty walking."

Once the rest of his family was safely off the property, John Russell returned to help firefighters save his home.

Flames 20-metres high came within two metres of the six-

bedroom Hardiplank home.

A 5000-gallon water storage tank was partially melted and the rear fence was burnt.

The couple can thank the water in their backyard swimming pool for helping save their home, as firefighters were able to directly tap into it.

"I was sure we were going to lose the house. The flames and the heat were so intense," John said. But a last-minute wind shift gave firefighters just enough time to douse the firefront, which then shifted in the opposite direction and jumped Nimoola Road into grassland before being contained.

Nine other houses along the road were threatened.

A shed, two cars and a caravan were destroyed on other properties.



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