‘Heart-wrenching’: Young family loses everything

FROM baby blankets passed down through generations to wooden rockers made by her late grandfather, a young mother has described her heartbreak at losing everything on the day her family were meant to move into their new home.

Fighting back tears, mother Sarah-Mai Foreman, 26, told The Courier-Mail she had to run "straight back out" when she saw the Landsborough home in the aftermath of the blaze that destroyed it.

The family was preparing to move into the property, having shifted all but two boxes of their belongings there before it went up in flames.

Sarah-Mai Foreman and Brendan Donahoo, with their 9-week-old son Chad, were woken early Saturday by the explosion of a jerry can in the backyard. Picture: Lachie Millard
Sarah-Mai Foreman and Brendan Donahoo, with their 9-week-old son Chad, were woken early Saturday by the explosion of a jerry can in the backyard. Picture: Lachie Millard

"It is heart-wrenching," Ms Foreman said.

"You (now) don't have sentimental things to pass on to your kids. I didn't have a dad growing up so my pa and pop were everything to me so seeing the things (they passed down to me) all burnt it just killed me inside. There was nothing in there that we could salvage.

 

"There's a chair that my pop made when I was a little girl, (it's the) little sentimental things, my daughters had crocheted little blankets that grandma made.

"One of them was mine when I was a baby to pass on to my children.

Ms Foreman said it was about 5am on Saturday when her whole world changed.

 

Fire damage at Brendan Donahoo and Sarah-Mai Foreman's property at Landsborough. Picture: Lachie Millard
Fire damage at Brendan Donahoo and Sarah-Mai Foreman's property at Landsborough. Picture: Lachie Millard

She said the family were sleeping at her in-laws' house nearby on the same piece of land when she saw a jerry can explode nearby.

She woke up her husband, Brendan, and rushed her three kids - nine-week-old Chad, Charlotte, 1, and Grace, 6, - out the back door. Ms Foreman's stepdaughter Lailah was not home when the fire broke out.

"To me it was just surreal," Ms Foreman said.

"My first thought was 'as long as my kids are alright, everything is okay'.

"All I thought about was my children and that they didn't breathe in the smoke. I got them out as soon as they could."

 

Patrick Donahoo sits his melted ride-on lawnmower after a wild bushfire tore through Landsborough. Picture: Lachie Millard
Patrick Donahoo sits his melted ride-on lawnmower after a wild bushfire tore through Landsborough. Picture: Lachie Millard

The family will now continue to live in Brendan's parents' home, which is on the same property as their newly-furnished dwelling that burnt down.

Ms Foreman said, despite losing so many precious possessions, the family were "very lucky" to still have a roof over their head as their housing was just meters away from her in-laws' property, which was remains unscathed.

A Go Fund Me page has been set up for the young family

COMMUNITY RALLIES BEHIND COUPLE WHO LOST THE LOT

TODAY marks 49 years since Alan and Agnes Bourzali came to Australia seeking a better life. But instead of celebrating with loved ones, the French couple - aged 80 and 81 - will spend the occasion sifting through ash looking for any remnants of their beloved possessions.

On Friday night, as the sun went down over Stanthorpe, icy winds caused a massive bushfire to rip through Alan and Agnes' home of 32 years.

Their wooden house was burnt to the ground and their 40-acre property is now nothing but scorched earth.

 

Alan and Agnes Bourzali lost their home in Caves Rd, Stanthorpe. Picture: David Martinelli
Alan and Agnes Bourzali lost their home in Caves Rd, Stanthorpe. Picture: David Martinelli

 

The bushfire was unforgiving and took with it $4000 in cash that Agnes had been saving for water tanks. It also incinerated Alan's prized deep sea diving equipment from 1956 and 1957, when he had been a diver for French explorer Jacques Cousteau.

All of his heirlooms from a storied life as a shooter, a federal police officer and a serviceman are gone as well.

"From Jacques Cousteau, I had my flippers, the goggles and the tube. They're gone now. All burned. All my memories," Alan told The Courier-Mail through tears.

Stanthorpe became their home after the scenery and climate reminded them of France. But on Friday night, the beautiful scenery resembled a nightmare as a wall of flame raced towards their family home.

"There were flames everywhere. Where did it come from?" Alan said.

"At 7 o'clock, a policeman came to the home and said 'you have to get out quick'.

"All the neighbours were going too so we were quick, quick, quick. But an hour-and-a-half or two hours later - gone. Everything, on fire."

 

Alan Bourzali sorts through the rubble of his home. Picture: David Martinelli
Alan Bourzali sorts through the rubble of his home. Picture: David Martinelli

 

Alan and Agnes are much-loved in the Stanthorpe community and they have been surrounded by kindness.

The local IGA yesterday gave them a $500 food voucher and the Salvation Army and Target have offered the pair clothes. For the time being, Alan and Agnes will stay with local pastors Anthony and Jody Patti.

"They're lovely people, very nice," Agnes said of Mr and Mrs Patti.

While they have lost everything, it is clear that they will always have the support of the regional Queensland community as they rebuild their lives.


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