Family caught off guard as fire rages through garage

Winnefred, Petrie, Win-Marie and Steyn Viljoen sift through their charred belongings.
Winnefred, Petrie, Win-Marie and Steyn Viljoen sift through their charred belongings.

Mindarie’s Viljoen family were counting their blessings this week as they packed belongings from the house they had rented for four years.

Winnefred said they were getting ready for a dinner guest when two young men who had been driving past banged on their front door.

‘They asked us if we knew there was smoke coming out of our garage ” there were these waves of smoke coming out of our garage,’ she said.

‘I screamed to my husband ” he tried to get in there but the smoke was overwhelming.’

She said she was in a flat spin, and the first things she took from the house were their photo albums, asking spectators to hold them.

Her daughter Win-Marie grabbed a backpack and filled it with valuables including a laptop and phone, as well a soft toy rabbit from her bed that she had received at birth.

Husband Steyn was full of praise for firefighters who arrived to put out the blaze. ‘They are so calm, they are focused, they know what to do,’ he said.

Mrs Viljoen praised the sensitivity of firefighters and the ‘humanity’ of their gestures.

“They could come here and just wreck everything, but the next moment they were carrying out huge memorabilia that were on the walls,” she said.

“There’s lots of little miracles – even one of the firemen said ‘God protected your family’.”

She said an ox wagon made for her husband by his father was found intact in a box beside the burnt car ” the only item in the garage to survive the blaze.

She said the family Bible was under tablecloths ready to be taken to church the next day, but while the tablecloths melted, the bible was unharmed. 

“In the study the ceiling dropped and it covered the bookcase like a door so all the books were spared,” she said.

Mostly, the family were grateful for the help they’ve received this week, from people helping to wash clothes, to pack and bringing food, as well as friends and neighbours letting them store belongings in their garages.

They are staying with friends, and Mr Viljoen’s employer has offered them an apartment to live in.

The fire, which started in the garage of the Davenport Circuit house, caused $300,000 damage.

A Department of Fire and Emergency Services spokeswoman said they received a triple zero call at 5.10pm and the fire was under control by 6pm.

Fire and rescue crews from Butler, Duncraig, Joondalup and Osborne Park attended, as well as the Wanneroo-Joondalup SES crew who stabilised the garage. Police, St John Ambulance and Western Power also attended.

The Viljoens believed batteries charging for their remote controlled airplanes sparked the fire.  Win-Marie said she thought garage’s should have smoke alarms because so many flammable items were kept there.