Up in smoke

STANDING outside his gutted unit, Queanbeyan man Darren Harris’ outwardly calm demeanour belies the destruction that just hours earlier had ripped through the lives of both he and his partner.

Nearby, his girlfriend Talia Meyboom sifts through what’s left of their possessions after fire tore through their Cassidy Street unit on Sunday afternoon.

A handful of souvenirs from the couple’s recent trip to Thailand, a framed football jersey that has somehow survived the inferno.

In total, a couple of cardboard boxes of odds and ends are all that remain.

The blaze, which Queanbeyan firefighters describe as having been particularly aggressive, took just minutes to engulf the couple’s home.

Darren and Talia had been out when it took hold; a quick trip down the shops.

Less than 20 minutes later, they returned to find more than 20 firefighters from Queanbeyan and the ACT battling to contain a blaze that had sparked in the unit’s ground floor bedroom.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined.

“It’s the sort of thing that you hear about or that you see on TV and of course you feel for those people but until it happens to you, you can’t know what it’s like,” Darren says.

“This is what we’ve got,” he adds, pointing to the clothes on his back. “You’re starting from scratch and you’ve just got to think, ‘ok, what do we need? Shoes, shirts, that kind of stuff’.

“But we’re lucky. Family and friends couldn’t be more helpful so we’ve got a place to stay, we’ve both still got jobs and we’ve got each other which is the main thing.”

So intense was Sunday’s blaze, fire crews were at one stage fearful the entire unit complex was at risk before the fire was brought under control. The unit was totally destroyed.

The couple, who have been left with virtually nothing, had returned to Queanbeyan just two days earlier after a two-week trip to Thailand.

“We’d only just got back from Thailand on the Friday so we were asleep in the bedroom most of Saturday,” Darren said.

“If it had happened on Saturday instead of when it did on the Sunday, we’d have been dead to the world.

“If one of us had been asleep in there, it could have been a whole lot worse but thankfully the place was empty.”

Darren, who had lived in the unit for the past six years, said the couple would likely relocate to Canberra while they attempt to get back on their feet. 

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