Debbie Barber with a picture of her children and grandchildren – one of the few items she managed to rescue from her burned-out home.
Warkworth resident Debbie Barber “thanks her lucky stars” that the fire that engulfed her home earlier this month did not happen when she was alone there at night.
The Palmer Street house suffered major fire damage to the lounge and kitchen and the roof partially collapsed during the blaze, which occurred late in the afternoon on May 3. The rest of the house suffered extensive smoke damage.
Debbie was at work when the fire broke out and was phoned by a neighbour who said that she should come home – though the neighbour did not say what the problem was.
When Debbie arrived, just after 5pm, she says she was stunned.
Around 20 firefighters with three fire engines from the Warkworth and Mahurangi East Volunteer Fire Brigades were at work putting the fire out.
Debbie lives alone in the house and no one was there at the time. However, two of Debbie’s pet budgies perished. Her cat, Puss, who was outdoors at the time, survived.
Debbie could not find Puss until the following day but the cat would not allow Debbie to come close.
However, she was able to retrieve her a few days later.
Debbie says she was unable to salvage much from the damaged house except for some personal items, photos, pots and pans, and a “few other bits and pieces”.
“I can’t change what happened. I’m just going to stay positive and light-hearted, but no doubt it will hit me at some stage,” she says.
The house is now uninhabitable and Debbie is living with family in Warkworth. Debbie says she has no idea what caused the fire and investigations are continuing. She is unsure whether the house can be repaired or whether it will have to be demolished – a question she is leaving to her insurer.
“Everyone moans about paying insurance, but at moments like these you are actually quite grateful for it,” she says.
Debbie says she is also very grateful for the support of the community and the many offers of help.
She says she has no place to store donations of goods, but cash donations would be helpful to spend on clothes and other immediate essentials.
Let’s help Debbie
Mahurangi Matters has teamed up with Warkworth Lions to help Debbie get back on her feet.
Readers wishing to donate to help can deposit money into the following account:
02-0480-0015374-97 reference “Fire”. Alternatively, deposit cash in the collection box at the Mahurangi Matters’ office, 17 Neville Street.