FAMILY SUPPORT: Sharon Kelly, of Billinudgel, hugs her grand-daughter Jessica Kelly (right) while daughter Mishka Kelly looks back at the devastating result of the fire that destroyed her mother’s house. JAY CRONAN
FAMILY SUPPORT: Sharon Kelly, of Billinudgel, hugs her grand-daughter Jessica Kelly (right) while daughter Mishka Kelly looks back at the devastating result of the fire that destroyed her mother’s house. JAY CRONAN

Fears for mum in house blaze

WHEN a distraught Mishka Kellyarrived at the burning remains of her mother’s Billinudgel house on Tuesday night, she feared the worst.

“I was completely hysterical, standing here crying, trying to ask the police if mum was in there,” she said. “I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

Horror turned to relief moments later when Mishka, and her 17-year-old daughter Jessica, turned to find her mum, Sharon, walking up the driveway.

“We just ran to her and hugged her and hugged her. The funny thing was she was the calm one comforting us,” Mishka said.

“She reckons we went through all the grief for her.”

Sharon Kelly had been out to dinner at a friend’s place at Lennox Head and returned about 9pm to find her isolated Middle Pocket Road timber home, between Billinudgel and Main Arm, surrounded by emergency services.

Police flagged the 60-year-old down as she approached, relieved to know she was safe, and escorted her up to the house.

“I was shocked and saddened, but perhaps it’s time for change,” said Ms Kelly philosophically.

“I choose to believe things happen for a reason. I lost a lot of my treasures, but compared to what the people of Haiti are going through ...

“We will miss my mother’s beautiful hand-made quilt and my father’s Stradivarius-copy violin. It was over a hundred years old.

“I’m just glad our animals and the remnant rainforest are safe.

“The firefighters told me one of my dogs, Angel, stood guard beside the house through the whole fire and wouldn’t budge.”

Though still in shock, Ms Kelly was philosophical about her loss and said she had been planning to build a bigger house.

“It’s a shame, but the new plans were in there,” she said, pointing to the still smouldering wreckage.

“Unfortunately I had no insurance. It was a very old house and went up quickly.”

A neighbour had raised the alarm about 7pm on Tuesday after hearing two explosions at the house while swimming in a nearby creek.

He went to investigate and found the house ablaze.

He telephoned a family member who then called Mishka and Jessica at their Wilsons Creek home.

“Mum doesn’t have a mobile and I was frantically trying to raise her,” Mishka said. “I was so fearful. That was the longest drive of my life.

“But everyone’s okay, she’s okay. To think it could’ve happened a couple of hours later while she was asleep.

“Mum will stay with us and we’ll be able to find her plenty of clothes at work,” she said, referring to her shop, The Closet, in Mullumbimby.

Shortly after 7.30pm, Rural Fire Service North Coast team manager Dave Cook dispatched three heavy water tankers, three light tankers and a NSW Fire Brigade truck.

“We knew there would be water problems in that area so we sent the extra tankers,” he said.

“Unfortunately the heavy tankers couldn’t get up the drive so we had to run long lines and relay water in the smaller tankers.”

The fire took about two hours to extinguish and the RFS and Byron police are investigating the blaze.

Ms Kelly thanked her neighbours, the police and firefighters, who she said had to negotiate a difficult driveway and a creek crossing in the dark.

“I couldn’t wish for better friends and neighbours,” she said.

“And nothing’s worth more than that.”



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