Unanderra firefighter's family lose everything in house fire

GUTTED: Unanderra firefighter John Balzan and wife Lani are facing an uncertain future after a fire that started outside ripped through their home. Picture: Adam McLean

GUTTED: Unanderra firefighter John Balzan and wife Lani are facing an uncertain future after a fire that started outside ripped through their home. Picture: Adam McLean

How to help

To donate to the John and Lani fire relief fund, you can either direct deposit or transfer into the IMB Bank account, or stop by at any IMB Bank branch and make a deposit over the counter using the below details: 

  • Account Name J M & L M Balzan Fundraiser
  • BSB 641 800
  • Account Number 200767853

For those of you wishing to donate items, some more time is needed to arrange a collection point. John and Lani are today trying to secure accommodation, and once this plans can be made to get these items to them.

On behalf of John, Lani and their families, and John's extended family here at Fire and Rescue NSW Unanderra 474 Station, our deepest thanks and gratitude to you who have pledged help and given support in this sad time." - Kiarna Duffy

‘We were only gone for two hours’

MESS: Figtree couple Lani and John Balzan survey the damage at the back of their Cameron Place home which was badly damaged by fire. Picture: Adam McLean

MESS: Figtree couple Lani and John Balzan survey the damage at the back of their Cameron Place home which was badly damaged by fire. Picture: Adam McLean

Unanderra firefighter John Balzan has fought countless house fires in the eight years he’s worked for the fire brigade.

But not even that could prepare him for the devastation of having his own home destroyed by fire on Friday night and losing just about everything.

John, wife Lani, their children and Lani’s sister were returning from Sydney when they received a phone call around 5.30pm from a neighbour telling them the Figtree home they had rented for the past three years was on fire. 

The family arrived soon after to find their street lined with fire trucks, police cars and mates from Unanderra fire station. In an ironic twist, the Unanderra crew, which John has been a member of for the past three years, was off-line on Friday for a team bonding day. 

“As a firefighter I had plans in place in case anything ever happened,” Mr Balzan said. “I had fire extinguishes upstairs and downstairs and we even had important documents packed in a box in case we ever needed to get out quickly. “We were only out for two hours. Even though you are a firefighter, it can still happen to you.” 

The family is now homeless and facing an uncertain future. They did not have contents insurance and have lost almost everything. A Fire and Rescue NSW spokesman said a faulty air-conditioner located outside was believed to have caused the fire. With their lease now terminated, Mr Balzan needs to find a home close to Unanderra for his job as a retained fire fighter. “Where do we start?” “All we can do is try to find another place close to Unanderra Fire Station so I can keep my job.”

Mrs Balzan, an accomplished Aboriginal artist who designed St George Illawarra Dragons indigenous guernsies and won the 2016 national NAIDOC poster competition, has been left heartbroken by the loss of her artwork, family photos and sentimental items.

“We know its good that the kids are safe and we are safe, but this house was our life and now everything is gone,” she said.

“I’ve lost my NAIDOC painting, other paintings and the stools I painted for John and each of my three sons...this is stuff that can never be done again.” 

Unanderra fire station captain Paul Dawson said his crew were rallying behind the family and an IMB account would be set up for them on Monday with details on the station’s facebook page.

Even though you are a firefighter, it can still happen to you - John Balzan

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