‘The entire house went up; both storeys were on fire, gas bottles were exploding and all I could think of was getting Pippa out,’ he said.
‘My neighbour had to physically restrain me from going into the house and it was nearly two hours before I saw a fireman walk out with her in his arms. My grandson raced over and grabbed her and placed her down on my feet and it was a joyous moment.’
With the help of friends, family and the local community, Chas and Pippa are now living in a dog-friendly rental property in Beeliar. Chas said he saw it as a fresh start.
‘How many people get to start all over again at 70?’ he said.
‘People have been absolutely marvellous. I haven’t shed a tear over anything I’ve lost in the fire, but I’ve been very emotional about the way people have helped me.’
‘I’ve had people come up to me in the shops giving me money, offering me things; it’s been amazing.’
The house in Aldridge Road, Booragoon, was burned to the ground on December 22, eight days after Chas’s 70th birthday, after a laptop was left turned on overnight.
Chas’ house, which cost $350,000 to build in 1998, was underinsured by about $200,000 and he said he would not be able to afford to rebuild in the same area.
‘I don’t want to leave my friends and my church, but right now I’m just going to see what happens,’ he said.