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Fire victims built a 'palace'

Survivors of a house fire south of Brisbane which claimed 11 lives take possession of a new home, built by volunteers, which "makes your father in heaven smile".

PT2M29S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-1weac 620 349

One of the survivors of last year's devastating Slacks Creek house fire that killed 11 relatives says his family is ‘‘very much alive’’ in the new home built on the site.

A double-storey house, featuring a similar layout to the old home, was built thanks to the voluntary efforts of about 40 companies including Mirvac and Hutchinson builders, and co-ordinated by the Builders Labourers Federation.

The property features 11 pillars at the front of the house and 11 trees in the backyard, symbolising the lost loved ones.

People gather to watch the official handover of the house at Slacks Creek.

People gather to watch the official handover of the house at Slacks Creek. Photo: Daniel Hurst

But when accepting the keys to the house this morning, Tau Taufa said he felt they were still with him in spirit.

‘‘My family are very much alive here. Thank you to all you guys,'' he said.

''You drive away all my sadness and fill me with gladness.''

The cutting of the ribbon saw a big heart curtain drop to reveal the ground floor.

The cutting of the ribbon saw a big heart curtain drop to reveal the ground floor. Photo: Daniel Hurst

Mr Taufa was in the old house with his extended family when the fire broke out on August 24 last year.

He managed to escape but could not save his family from the enormous blaze.

Tau lost his wife, daughter and three grandchildren.

Slacks Creek fire survivor Tau Taufa.

Slacks Creek fire survivor Tau Taufa. Photo: Daniel Hurst

Killed in the fire were three generations of a large clan: Fusi Taufa, 47, six members of the Lale family - Neti-Teukisia, 42, and her children Jerry, 18, Paul, 17, Lafoa'i, 14, Selamafi, 10 and Richard, 8 - Anamalia Taufa, 23, and her daughters, La'Haina Matauaina, 6, and Kahlani Matauaina, 3, and Ardelle Taufa Lee, 16.

Mr Taufa, who has lived in a home next door in the meantime, said the efforts of the people who contributed to the rebuilding were amazing.

He said he would try to find the right time to move into the house and would “watch it from a distance” and “try to make myself really adapt to this”.

From top left: Anamalia Taufa, Ardelle Lee, Fusikalau Taufa, Neti-Teukisia Lale, and Jerry Lale. From bottom left: Kahlani Matauaina, La'Haina Matauaina, Selamafi Lale, Paul Lale, Lafoa'i Lale, and Richard Lale.

From top left: Anamalia Taufa, Ardelle Lee, Fusikalau Taufa, Neti-Teukisia Lale, and Jerry Lale. From bottom left: Kahlani Matauaina, La'Haina Matauaina, Selamafi Lale, Paul Lale, Lafoa'i Lale, and Richard Lale.

“To me it’s like a child. You watch your child [grow up]," he said.

“The time to move in, I’m not sure.”

Mr Taufa has vowed to devote his time to helping homeless people.

New Housing and Public Works Minister Bruce Flegg, who attended this morning’s handover of keys, said the home was on the site of one of the region’s most terrible tragedies and yet what had come out of the ashes was an outpouring of community spirit.

Dr Flegg said his department, under the previous government, had also provided financial support and enabled red tape to be reduced.

BLF secretary David Hanna said the new home had been completed after just eight weeks of work.

He said about 150 workers would have been involved in the work. He said initially quotes were sought from various companies but people said they wanted to help out for no charge.

“It’s an opportunity to give back to the community,” Mr Hanna said.

“The construction industry is most of the time fairly closely knit.”

Mr Hanna said a private family blessing of the new home was expected to occur around April 15.

The entrance to the home is next to a sign saying "Kalua Place - Gateway to Eternity".