Chepstowe fire: family overwhelmed by community generosity

“The heart feels good. You feel like smiling.”

It’s a strange comment to hear from a woman who lost her home of 30 years and a lifetime of memories on Tuesday.

But Gayle Stone and her husband Ray have been overwhelmed by the support and generosity of members of the public, many of them complete strangers, since fire tore through their Carngham home.

“We have always know it’s a terrific, close knit community,” Mr Stone said. 

“But to actually experience it on our side now, in the situation we are in, it’s too overwhelming.”

“It’s just beautiful, beautiful, beautiful people,” Mrs Stone added.

The couple were among victims of Tuesday’s blaze seeking assistance to start the long process of rebuilding their lives at the Snake Valley community hall yesterday, which has become a makeshift recovery centre.

Pyrenees Shire corporate services director Terry Matthews said a number of organisations were represented there to offer assistance but that the council offices had also been inundated with offers from members of the public.

“We have had a number of people contacting council offering agistment for stock, which we’re now collating, and fencing replacement,” he said.

“We are collating that information and linking people up with those needs.”

Mrs Stone said as she and her husband awoke for the second day to face the reality that they had lost everything, the kindness of strangers had made things much easier.

“We are much better today,” she said.

“Little things are still starting to sink in, it’s still shocking, but the help from everyone has been magnificent.”

She said the couple could never appropriately convey their gratitude to those who have offered help.

“If we could only round up the people, all these people and put our arms around them and give them all a big hug we would,” Mrs Stone said.

The couple are staying with a friend while contemplating hunting for a rental property in Snake Valley.

“We do have to start moving on, to get things moving,” Mrs Stone said.

But sadly, the couple is quickly losing hope their dog Sarsha will be found alive.

The whippet was at their home when fire destroyed their property and eight neighbouring homes while the couple were in Ballarat on Tuesday.

While initially Mr Stone said they would rebuild, he said now he was not so sure.

“There’s too much going on in the brain at the moment, yesterday I said yes we will but now I don’t know.

“We’ll just think about one thing at a time.”

kim.stephens@fairaxmedia.com.au

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