Anxious wait for residents in Chepstowe

PHOTOS: Chepstowe fire

VIDEO: "It's not something you see every day."

STORY: Residents seek shelter in place of refuge

STORY: Snake Valley community residents meeting today

DOZENS of families will today learn if their homes survived a fire that tore through Chepstowe yesterday.

After being evacuated yesterday, residents were not allowed to re-enter their homes, forced to either wait it out at evacuation centres or with relatives.

Among those was the Ellen family, who spent last night not knowing if their house still stood.

Having left their Station Lane home in the path of the fire, they were left unaware if their home had escaped the blaze. Spending last night at a relative’s house in Ballarat, all they could do was wait and hope.

The family photos still remained packed away in boxes from the last time they had fled from fire in Chepstowe, although this time around it seemed a lot more serious.

Ray Ellen was the last of the family members to see his house.

While his wife, two daughters and three grandchildren were in Ballarat, he was left to enforce the fire safety plan alone. 

That included saving the beloved family dogs, cats and photos.

He managed to rescue almost two dozen dogs but was forced to leave three others and about eight cats behind. The photos also remained inside. Also left behind on the hobby farm were pigs, goats, sheep, horses, ponies and rabbits.

His wife Gayle said the last thing her husband saw was the fence on fire, as well as a neighbouring house in flames.

“I think Ray managed to save 21 dogs but had to leave three behind,” she said. “The last thing he saw was the fence on fire and he burnt his hand on the gate.”

Mr Ellen was last night being treated in hospital for smoke inhalation and burns.

He was one of six people treated at hospital, two of which were taken by ambulance. Unable to access the property, Mrs Ellen waited at the corner of Carngham Road and Linton Road with her two daughters by her side.

Less than three kilometres away their house either lay smouldering or had somehow managed to escape the blaze. Firefighting helicopters hovered where she guessed her house was, dropping water to try and fight the fire.

“The worst part is just not knowing,” she said.

“All you can do is cross your fingers and remain positive.”

patrick.nolan@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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