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    DEVASTATING: The O’Connor family home at Pomonal was destroyed in the Bellfield blaze on Tuesday last week.
  • Hero image
    DEVASTATING: The O’Connor family home at Pomonal was destroyed in the Bellfield blaze on Tuesday last week.

Heartwarming response to Pomonal fire

By Lauren Henry

The O’Connor family home was one of 44 homes at Pomonal destroyed in the Bellfield fire last week.

Bernie and Karen O’Connor had owned the home for 26 years, raising their children Tim and Ellie at the picturesque foot of Grampians National Park.

Their shed was saved, but their home reduced to ashes.

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“The house directly behind us, the house beside us and the house across the road – all three were fine,” Mr O’Connor said.

“It’s just so random.”

Mr O’Connor said while their home was insured, there were many contents that could not be insured.

“Boxes of photos of the kids, my wife’s wedding dress, some of the paintings we had on the walls, kids’ paintings when they went to school – that’s the real killer,” he said.

“You can’t insure memories.”

Mr O’Connor  said on the day of the fire, he was not at Pomonal. 

“We rent an old house in Warracknabeal and are often there during the week so I can work, and we go home to Pomonal on weekends,” he said.

“About 2.30pm I saw on the news there was a fire coming across the Grampians and if the wind changes... it could affect Pomonal – and that’s exactly what it did.

“We didn’t know one way or another until a friend sent a text saying sorry to hear about your house – that was the very first message we got.”

Mr O’Connor said he had experienced bushfires in 2006, but his property was not directly affected.

“We chose to come here – we know we’re in a bushfire area, but we do it with fingers crossed in a way, knowing its always a possibility,” he said.

Mr O’Connor said there was sadness in the Pomonal community, with plenty sharing hugs and sympathy at a community barbecue on Sunday.

“It’s just amazing how these small communities just band together,” he said.

Mr O’Connor praised Member for Lowan Emma Kealy, who rang and checked in. 

“She’s just been fantastic – no interest in politics, just 100 percent interest in people,” he said.

Mr O’Connor said the outpouring of support from the community and local businesses was heartwarming, telling a story of how Krahes Pest Control in Warracknabeal had sprayed his Pomonal home last week but refused to accept payment once they found out the house had burnt down.

He said he had donated his hardship payment back to the Pomonal community because they had ‘a place to put our heads’. 

“We went to the general store to get some drinks and ice-creams and they wouldn’t accept money,” he said.

“The school had boxes of new clothing and all this stuff, just handing out stuff to people.”

Mr O’Connor said they planned to return and rebuild at Pomonal.

“But now it’s just my wife and I, we are costing up a small, modular home on site,” he said.

“The community is just so fantastic. We just love the whole community.”


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