ACT News


Gordon couple survey damage after mystery fire sparks in their home

Picking through the soot and blackened belongings, Pearl Wakefield's heart dropped when she saw the cardboard box that held her wedding photo album.

The box was mostly destroyed; but on lifting the lid Mrs Wakefield found its contents had somehow survived the fire with only a slightly melted corner.

It was a small, welcome relief after the fire in the Wakefield's Gordon home on Monday night, which shredded the ceiling, shattered windows and erupted through the roof all in a matter of minutes.

Mrs Wakefield had been on the phone to a friend in Adelaide when she noticed a strange smell start to spread through the house.

The rooms grew hazy as she and her husband Colin looked for the source.

With still no flames visible the alarm went off, and Mr Wakefield called triple-0.


No sooner had they escaped through the front door did flames start poking through the roof, eventually causing an estimated $500,000 worth of damage.

"Once I saw the flames coming out of the roof I lost the plot," Mrs Wakefield said. "I went to run back into the house to get the cat."

The couple were in good humour on Tuesday morning, despite the emotional night, and managed a laugh when remembering how Mr Wakefield had stopped her from running inside.

And while the firefighters couldn't find Mitzy, on Tuesday the Wakefields discovered her hiding in the wardrobe, sooty-pawed but not singed.

The couple had only moved to the capital from Adelaide six weeks ago for work.

"We had just got the house perfect," Mrs Wakefield said. "I'm pretty devo."

The Wakefields still have no idea what caused the fire. But the house was insured, and the insurance company is sending a forensic investigator to help find out.

The damage, though serious, was contained to the bedroom and the roof, while the sturdy brick, well-maintained home has largely survived.

But, Mrs Wakefield says, "I don't know if I'll ever feel the same about the place".

Behind the emergency services tape still strung up around the house on Tuesday, workmen boarded up windows and swept shattered glass.

ACT Fire & Rescue had sent three firepumpers and a commander to extinguish the fire. Commander Leigh Curtis said the Wakefields were lucky to escape unharmed.

"This is another example of how working smoke alarms save lives," he said.