AN alert neighbour raised the alarm and Port Macquarie fire crews were on scene within 10 minutes, but it wasn't enough to save a lifetime of possessions from an intense fire which eventually gutted a home in Innes Lake.
The devastated owners could do nothing but watch, from the safety of a neighbour's front yard, the efforts of emergency services crews who worked swiftly to bring the fire in Quarry Rise under control.
Neighbour Lyn Fatches could smell smoke at around 12 noon on Friday, May 24 and on inspection, heard the smoke alarm of the neighbour's home and saw smoke billowing from the roof.
There was nothing we could do.Neighbour, Lyn Fatches
She phoned the fire brigade immediately before rushing to the backyard of the burning property to retrieve two dogs.
"I was washing the dishes and could see smoke so I went next door to check on the elderly lady who lives there when I saw smoke billowing from the roof of the home next to hers," Lyn said.
"I phoned the fire brigade and then realised the owners weren't home so I raced out the back and got the dogs who were locked in the back yard.
"There was nothing we could do."
Lyn praised the quick response of three Port Macquarie fire crews who were first on the scene, followed by the HAZMAT unit, police and an ambulance.
"The fire brigade was here within 10 minutes. When I phoned them it was all coming out of the roof. By the time they got here it was coming out of the garage door," Lyn said.
"They are just distraught. They don't want to even look at it happening."
The owners of the home have been living there for no more than two years, she said.
This is just so sad for them.Neighbour, Verna Jeffrey
Neighbour Verna Jeffery had been in town shopping at the time of the fire. She was dropped off by the town bus at the end of the street and couldn't believe what she saw when she walked up the hill.
"I saw smoke and had hoped that I didn't leave anything on in the house," Verna, who has lived in the street for 22 years, said. Holding a bunch of sunflowers, she could do nothing but watch, comforted by neighbours.
"This is just so sad for them," she said.
Port Macquarie Fire and Rescue station officer Dawn Maynard said the home has been destroyed.
Fire crews had to navigate through think walls of smoke while the two-storey structure became increasingly compromised. The floor had given way and a close eye was being kept on the roof.
"The home was totally engulfed affecting both upper and lower floors," Ms Maynard said.
"We managed to save one room but the rest of the home has been gutted."
Fire crews were full of praise for the neighbours' efforts and stressed the importance of working smoke alarms.
Ms Maynard said because of the ferocity of the fire and the extent of the damage, investigations will continue to determine the cause.