The back of the Warner St home.
The back of the Warner St home.

Couple recounts housefire ordeal

IT WAS just before 5am on Saturday. Raylene Swain had just gotten back into bed next to her husband Graham after making a trip to the toilet.

"I had been away for a week visiting friends and family in Brisbane," Raylene said.

"On the way back to the bedroom I noticed that there was a really bad smell. The house just stank.

"But I knew Graham had gone to a lot of trouble to have the house clean for when I got home so I didn't say anything.

"When I got back into bed Graham rolled over and joked about how it had been the best sleep he had had all week."

Neither of them could have guessed the chaos that would unfold in the next 10 minutes.

DESTROYED: The dinning room was one of the worst-affected rooms of the Warner St home after the fire broke out under the house in the early hours of Saturday morning.
DESTROYED: The dinning room was one of the worst-affected rooms of the Warner St home after the fire broke out under the house in the early hours of Saturday morning. Erin Smith

"The power went out. I thought someone had run into the power pole out the front of the house."

They grabbed torches and raced to the front door of their Warner St home.

There was no accident.

Raylene said she ran around the house pulling back curtains and peering through windows trying to work out what had caused the bang.

"All I could see was black," she said.

"At the time I thought it was still dark outside. Now I realise it was smoke."

Graham was in the kitchen getting a glass of water when he noticed a hole in the floor.

"He just screamed 'Quick! Get out! The house is on fire! Get out, get out!'," Raylene said.

"I was on my way out when I remembered my mobile phone was the table, so I went back to get it.

"Graham was still screaming at me to get out.

"The fire alarm wasn't going off so I didn't think it could be too big of a fire.

Many precious items inside the house were destroyed.
Many precious items inside the house were destroyed.

"I yelled out that I was going to go down the road and call the fire brigade."

But over the fire alarm, which had kicked in now, and the roar of the fire Graham hadn't heard what his wife had said.

He stayed in the house, kicking his feet along the floor, because by that stage the smoke was so bad he assumed that Raylene would be down nice and low.

The smoke got so thick that Graham was choking.

He knew if he didn't get out he would not be getting out at all.

He ran down the road to the neighbours screaming, thinking he had lost his wife.

"But the neighbours ran out and said 'it's okay, Raylene is here, she is calling triple zero'," Raylene said.

Raylene said after calling the fire brigade she just sat on the kerb and wept.

"I don't know how long it was until they arrived but it felt like 30 minutes," she said.

"The back room, the kitchen, it is all gone.

"It is a timber house. It just burnt."

No room was left untouched by the flames.
No room was left untouched by the flames.

Both Graham and Raylene were taken to Warwick Hospital, where Graham was treated for smoke inhalation. Both of them then returned to their home later that day.

The fire is believed to have been started by a spark from a power box under the house, which then led to the petrol tank on the mower catching fire and exploding.

It did not take long for news of the fire to spread with the Warwick community banding together to help the pair back on their feet.

One of the first to help them out was Mussels restaurant.

"We walked in there, still in the same clothes we had been wearing when the fire happened," Raylene said.

"I was still in my dressing gown and we were both covered in soot.

"They gave us dinner, plus bread, milk and vegemite so we could have toast and tea for breakfast.

"We are both just so grateful."

While neither of the Swains had had much of a chance to look through their burnt-out house Raylene said she was aware of at least one item that had perished.

"I am the treasurer of the Warwick Artists Group and I had taken home the money we had made from the gallery opening on Friday night," she said.

But both are well aware they could be in a much worse situation.

"We were lucky to get out," Graham said.

"Things can be replaced."

Grab a copy of tomorrow's Daily News for details about how you can help Raylene and Graham.



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