A Winter Valley family who have lost their home less than three weeks before Christmas say they are grateful for the community's outpouring of love and practical support. Simon Jones was asleep when niece Madeline banged on the window screaming "fire, fire" at the family's home in The Ridge around 3.45pm on Wednesday, December 6. "I didn't take it seriously at first - but it actually was a fire," the night-shift nurse said. "I had just enough time to put some shorts on. "The neighbours have lent me the clothes I have on right now." The father of two and his niece (who lives with the family) got out as neighbours called triple-zero. Wife Nicole was picking up their 11-year-old son from school while their four-year-old daughter was in daycare and their niece's boyfriend Zach was at work. "It spread so quickly. In just a minute or two it had engulfed much of the deck and the kitchen," Mr Jones said. "I remember hearing one smoke alarm as I got out, but then all of a sudden every alarm in the house was going off all at the same time. "Some things are burnt but everything is either smoke or water damaged. "We lost some of the Christmas presents, but others we've salvaged and had to give to the kids early because it was clothing that they needed right now." Fire Rescue Victoria said crews from Ballarat City (station 67) and Lucas (station 68) found the mezzanine brick home "well alight". The family said emergency services remained on site until at least 8pm, with the the City of Ballarat declaring the home unsafe for habitation. "There are holes in the roof - we now have skylights we didn't have before," Mrs Jones said. "The roof is too unstable." Simon and Nicole grabbed just three hours sleep at a relative's home. "The kids woke up at 5am.They're just not (feeling) themselves," Mr Jones said. "Our cats are a bit funny as well. They know something is wrong. "We really love our house - and the community in Winter Valley is great. "We're hoping maybe the house can be fixed up - but at this stage we just don't know what will happen. We're waiting for the insurance to be sorted out. "Maybe we'll have to rebuild." The couple praised the firefighters at the scene - as well as everyone who had offered support. "The Lucas and Ballarat City brigade members were really good," Mrs Jones said. "We really appreciated their help. "Our church - One2One Church of Christ (in Alfredton) - also gave us a donation for clothes. "We're really thankful for that and to the whole Winter Valley community," The Jones family have been offered everything from help with washing to veterinary advice - but the family said their most pressing need was finding a home big enough for six people and two cats. "We are staying with relatives for now, but my niece and her boyfriend had to go to a motel overnight," Mr Jones said. "The cats are with another relative. "If we can just find somewhere to stay - then we can work the rest out from there. "It's all up in the air right now." Nicole's sister has organised a GoFundMe page which has already raised $500 less than 24 hours after the blaze. The One2One church has also started a separate appeal via an internal Facebook page. The cause of the blaze is unknown, but the flames destroyed outdoor deck furniture, power tools, the roof cavity, the kitchen - and much of the central section of the home . Mr Jones also had concerns about how much time he would need off work from his job at a nursing home - but he still felt his glass was half full. "I was wearing boxer shorts when we discovered the fire had broken out, but I didn't think that was appropriate to run outside in," he laughed. "I did have time to grab some (regular) shorts that were nearby - but that was it. "No one was injured - and there was no one suffering smoke inhalation. "That's the main thing - we're glad everyone was safe." Mrs Jones said her husband also left behind some prized possessions. "He left all his (IT) technology gear behind," she laughed. "And if you know my husband, that's pretty phenomenal."