The day I almost lost my home and life in a fire

A reminder of how close I came to losing everything I owned including my life.The result of a saucepan left unattended on a stove. Some of the items destroyed before the fire miraculously went out. Photo: Robyne Cuerel / Fraser Coast Chronicle
A reminder of how close I came to losing everything I owned including my life.The result of a saucepan left unattended on a stove. Some of the items destroyed before the fire miraculously went out. Photo: Robyne Cuerel / Fraser Coast Chronicle Robyne Cuerel

AS a photo-journalist for the past two decades, I have lost count of the number of house fires I have photographed.

There were times while capturing dramatic images of someone's burning house I wondered "what if that was me".

My fears came to pass two days before Christmas.

What confronted me was a terrifying ordeal that gripped me body and soul.

It was my day off and having worked overtime the day before, I had to make the most of downtime alone by resting.

I had been collecting the residues of expensive fragrant candle wax in a small saucepan and would occasionally warm the saucepan up, turn the stove off and let the fragrance fill the house.

This day I thought I would do the same thing.

I turned the stove on - it was only meant to be for a couple of minutes, but I forgot and went to bed.

A high pitched screeching noise awoke me and in a daze, I looked at the fan beside the bed wondering why it was making such a weird noise.

A reminder of how close I came to losing everything I owned including my life. Photo: Robyne Cuerel / Fraser Coast Chronicle
A reminder of how close I came to losing everything I owned including my life. Photo: Robyne Cuerel / Fraser Coast Chronicle Robyne Cuerel

Then staggering into the living room, what confronted me was unbelievable.

The saucepan was now a glowing towering inferno.

Photojournalist - Robyne Cuerel
Photojournalist - Robyne Cuerel Contributed

I froze with shock and panicked - making a rational decision was almost impossible.

In autopilot, I turned off the electric stove but the flames only appeared to leap higher.

I grabbed a couple of cloths, took hold of the flaming saucepan and dropped it in the sink where the whole lot exploded.

Fire bubbled and leapt up the walls, consuming the curtains.

I envisaged the charred remains of the cottage I called home.

I was mesmerised and mortified by a fiercely hot and angry fire, but then something strange happened - it simply dissipated.

There were a few burning embers of melted metal I quenched with a tea towel.

The smoke-stained ceilings and walls are a daily reminder of how close I came to losing everything, including my life.

If it wasn't for a smoke alarm, who knows what would have happened.

It wasn't until I spoke to acting Maryborough Fire Station officer, Adrian Massingham I realised how lucky I was.

"We have smoke alarms because once you go to sleep your nose goes to sleep and you don't have that sense anymore," he said.

"That gives you 20 seconds to realise there is a fire and either enough time to get out of the house or enough time to act and do something."

This horrible experience has caused me to rethink my fire protection, including buying a fire blanket, as well as prompt me to share my story in the hope that others will be motivated to do the same.


Never leave cooking, heaters, open fires or candles unattended

Don't overload power boards

Keep electrical appliances in good working order

Ensure cigarette ash and butts are extinguished. Never smoke in bed

Do not dry clothing in front of heaters

Clean lint filters in clothes dryers after every use and always let dryers complete the cool-down cycle

Store all matches and lighters out of reach of children

Keep a fire extinguisher and fire blanket and know how to use them

Have a home fire evacuation plan and practise it regularly

Never deadlock yourself inside the house.

How to survive a bushfire in your car

IT SOUNDS like a nightmare, but it can happen.

Eight reasons to join the RFS

SPREAD across 93% of Queensland, the Rural Fire Service has about 36,000 volunteers. And you could be one of them.

What if my insurer gives me grief?

CLAIMING your insurance cover after a natural disaster can go one of two ways. It can be a breeze, or like pulling teeth.

Man duct-tapes little girl to the floor

Maryborough Courthouse.
Photo: Valerie Horton / Fraser Coast Chronicle

He did it as a form of punishment.

Aldridge graduates have already secured spots at USC

Graduating Aldridge State High School students Nettie Sillitoe, Lindsay Massey, Ashley Vicic and Artemio Clifford were some of the successful students who received a university offer before their Overall Positions (OPs).

Applications are still open via QTAC for 100+ programs at USC.

Council to prepare report on Urangan fish deaths

Dead fish floating in the lake on Truro St at Urangan on November 14.

The incidents occurred in November at a Truro St lake.

Local Partners

Have you downloaded the Fraser Coast Chronicle app yet?

The free Fraser Coast Chronicle phone app lets readers know when stories covering topics they are interested in are uploaded to the website.

Man builds playground entirely out of packing tape

Artist Eric Lennartson is in the process of completing his huge tape sculpture at the Ipswich Art Gallery.

VIDEO:And here's where you can play on it.

Where to meet Santa on the Fraser Coast these holidays

Santa Claus is coming to the Fraser Coast. Four year old Jorja Dowman has been visiting Santa in the shopping centre since she was just six months old.

Don't miss your chance to tell him what's on your wishlist!

Countdown to Woodford Folk Festival begins

ECONOMIC BOON: Woodford Folk Festival is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.  Photo Contributed

The first larger-than-life inhabitants have stepped into Woodfordia

Brad Pitt bids to keep custody battle private

Brad Pitt will go to court to keep his custody battle private

Sia has split from her husband

Sia has split from her husband Erik Anders Lang.

Amy Schumer thanks Barbie trolls for hateful comments

Amy Schumer is in the lead role for the new Barbie movie

Shannen Doherty's husband is suing for destroyed sex life

Shannen Doherty's husband is suing her former manager

Azealia Banks' battery case against Russell Crowe dropped

Russell Crowe will not be charged with battery

Mel Gibson named Best Director at AACTA Awards

Mel Gibson poses in the media room after winning the AACTA Award for Best Direction for Hacksaw Ridge.

HIS wartime drama Hacksaw Ridge sweeps 6th annual awards in Sydney.

Ipswich City Properties asset portfolio retains its value

Ipswich City Council Administration Building, South Street, Ipswich. Photo: Claudia Baxter / The Queensland Times

New website launched by Ipswich City Council

INSIDE STORY: The highlights of your $150 million CBD

GRAND PLAN: The highlights of the Ipswich CBD redevelopment and where they will be located.

Work on city heart's radical transformation to begin next year

VOTE IN OUR POLL: Sand mine opponents face serious dilemma

Public meeting for the proposed sand mine at Maroochydore last week.

Coast MP calls on Minister to stop KRA proposal with stroke of a pen

Developer's grand new multi-million dollar estate

NEW ESTATE: This is the only plan revealed by the property developer's new Billabongs Estate in Agnes Water.

DEVELOPER given the go ahead for a massive estate with 149 homes.

Couple's desperate $550K price drop to sell Gladstone home

Brian Headley and Kirstene Staib are selling their Kin Kora mansion for $750,000.

TELL tale sign of Gladstone's property market.

Ready to SELL your property?

Post Your Ad Here!