A quick trip to the supermarket for milk and bread has ended in heartache for an Albion Park mother-of-two, who returned to find the family home ablaze on Sunday afternoon.
A distraught Nichole Brennan has told how she watched everything she owned burn as fire engulfed her three-bedroom rental, and threatened neighbouring properties, on Charlotte Crescent just after 2.30pm.
“It’s the worst moment of my life,” Ms Brennan told the Mercury, choking back tears.
“I’m left with the clothes on my back and so are my children. Everything I own and my entire life is inside that house and I’m not in a financial position to be able to replace it all.
How you can help: A GoFundMe page has been set up to help support Ms Brennan
“Where do you go to from here? How did you rebuild from this when you have lost every single thing that you own?”
Earlier, Ms Brennan and her four-year-old daughter, Gypsy-Rose, had driven to Aldi at Albion Park Rail.
It was 10-minute trip for the kitchen staples. But, as the pair drove back down the street they’ve called home for the past three years, they saw smoke billowing from the back of a house nearby.
“I could pretty much tell it was coming from the back of mine, so I flew into the driveway,” Ms Brennan said.
Neighbours across the road had already alerted fire crews and rescued the family’s dog from the backyard.
As the fire shattered windows of the home, neighbours moved in to help Ms Brennan and to care for her little girl.
“They’ve taken my daughter in to look after her while I’m standing here watching everything that I own burn down,” she said.
Five crews from Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) and the Rural Fire Service responded to the fire after receiving multiple triple-0 calls.
FRNSW duty commander Inspector Jay Bland said the first firefighters on the scene found the home “fully involved in fire” and crews worked quickly to protect neighbouring houses.
One of those homes was slightly damaged by the fire, Inspector Bland said.
An investigation into the cause of the fire is under way.
However, initial reports from neighbours suggested it began at the rear of the home.
“The only thing that I had left on was the TV in my back room, but there was nothing else that was left on,” she said.
Despite losing all her possessions in the fire, Ms Brennan thanked the neighbours who came to her aid.
“I need to be grateful for the fact that I’m alive, my daughter’s alive and my dog’s alive,” she said.
Ms Brennan’s 11-year-old son, Kai, wasn’t home at the time.
“I had to call my son, who’s at his dad’s up in Campbelltown today [Sunday] to just let him know that he doesn’t have a house to come home to,” she said.
“He’s about to start school on Tuesday, for the start of a new term, and we’ve lost everything.”