Janine and Peter Huntly are proud people who would never ask for help.
But the Huntlys are the first ones to offer a hand to help someone less fortunate than themselves, whether that be Mr Huntly handing out money to those in need at his beloved sporting clubs, or Mrs Huntly raising money for Ballarat Health Services, where she works.
And friends going through hard times always knew they had a couch to sleep on and a hot meal at the Huntly’s, if needed.
Now it’s the Huntly family’s turn to be cared for after their Alfredton home they shared with their daughter Shona and grandsons Riley and Kade, was gutted by fire on Monday morning.
The Huntlys and their grandsons ran from their burning Merino Drive house with just the clothes they were wearing after the blaze broke out around 7am.
The family was not insured, so a gofundme page has been set up to raise funds so the Huntlys can start over.
Monday’s blaze has not been the first time the Huntlys have been hit by tragedy.
Peter and Janine’s two sons Clinton and Jordan died as a result of suicide. Clinton, then aged 24, took his own life on November 9, 2003. Seventeen months later, on August 29, 2005, Jordan died at the age of 20.
So this latest tragedy is another burden to bear for the Huntlys and they will carry that load with their usual pride and dignity.
But their close family and friends hope Peter and Janine will, this time, accept the help being offered to them.
“My parents have been together since they were teenagers and, over the years, have endured much heartache with the loss of their two sons. This is just another kick in the guts for these giving and caring people,” said Peter and Janine’s daughter Megan.
“They lost their sons within 17 months of each other and they have been trying to piece their lives back together since then. Now this … a lifetime of building has gone,” Megan said.
“How much can one family endure in a lifetime? My parents have endured more than most. They have lost everything. I hoped to never see the look of devastation on my parents’ faces again in my lifetime, but here we are ….”.
Megan said her family was humbled by the outpouring of support from family, friends and complete strangers since Monday’s fire.
“My parents have always been great at giving. They are proud people and, at the moment, they need all the help they can get to restore their dignity … they’re destitute.
“My parents aren’t materialistic, but the fact is they need beds to sleep in, chairs to sit on … and the list goes on. They need help to regain some dignity in their trying times,” Megan said.
My parents have always been great at giving. They are proud people and, at the moment, they need all the help they can get to restore their dignity … they’re destitute.- Megan Huntly
Lost in Monday’s fire were Riley and Kade’s Christmas presents, electronic games, clothes, new computers and school and bedding. Riley, 13, is just about to start the school year at Ballarat High School while his brother Kade, 10, is a pupil at Alfredton Primary School.
Some items had been salvaged from the ashes of the burnt-out home, however, much of it was damaged by smoke and will need to be thrown out.
But what is most devastating for the family is the loss of precious photographs and memorabilia belonging to Clinton and Jordan.
Community support started in the family’s Alfredton neighbour as firefighters battled the blaze Monday morning. Neighbours, many of them strangers to the Huntlys, did not hesitate to bring water, food, clothing, blankets and toiletries to comfort the family members as they watched their home burn.
“We had lovely people bring us cold drinks as we went through the house for five hours trying to find mementos and salvage anything we could,” Megan said.
“We have already had generous people drop off clothes for Shona and the boys and we very much appreciate it. But it’s overwhelming the amount of simple things needed in daily life that are just gone.”
The latest nightmare for the Huntlys began early Monday morning, when Mrs Huntly noticed a red glow coming from the garage.
Initially thinking her husband had left a light on overnight, she opened the garage door, only to discover flames coming from the far corner. It wasn’t long before the flames “exploded” up and towards Mrs Huntly.
At the same time, a passerby was pounding on the door of their Merino Drive home to alert the family there was a fire in their garage. It was this same stranger who also rang triple zero to notify emergency crews.
The house quickly became engulfed by thick black smoke and the sound of the smoke alarm, described by Mrs Huntly as deafening, soon rang out. While her daughter Shona had already started a shift at Ballarat Health Services, the rest of Mrs Huntly’s family was still in bed.
Mr Huntly quickly grabbed a garden hose to try to extinguish the blaze, but it proved useless. And young Kade ran back into the house thinking his mother was still in bed, not realising she had already left for work.
The family was lucky to escape with their lives and that of their scruffy Maltese cross dog, Thai.
Suffering smoke inhalation, Mr Huntly, a chronic asthmatic, spent much of Monday at the Ballarat Base Hospital.
One precious item Mrs Huntly managed to grab before fleeing the house was an album of photographs of her late son Clinton.
The family wanted to thank the many people and organisations in the Ballarat community who have helped since Monday’s fire, in particular the CFA unit from Ballarat, Lucas and Sebastopol, the Ambulance Victoria officers, Crawford’s Pharmacy, their Alfredton neighbours and the many family, friends and strangers who have already donated to them.
Even the McDonalds restaurant at Lucas provided the family with a free lunch only hours after Monday’s house fire.
Anyone wanting to make a donation to the Huntly family can go to the gofundme page: https://www.gofundme.com/50cwb1s