Coalcliff man who lost everything forgives boys who lit backyard fire

Police will interview two teenagers over a fire that destroyed neighbouring homes at Coalcliff, but will not charge the boys, who have “learnt their lesson in the hardest possible way,” according to supporters. 

Meantime, a resident who lost everything in the blaze says he holds no hard feelings towards the teens. 

Police believe the pair, aged 15 and 16, lit a fire off Lawrence Hargrave Drive Friday night, moments before the blaze raged out of control in winds gusting up to 70kmh. 

Detective Inspector Brad Ainsworth confirmed the fire originated in an outdoor fire pit. 

“We’ve got two young people that are going to be interviewed this week,” he said. 

“There’ll be no criminal charges. There were no breaches of any fire bans. Unfortunately for these kids it was just a very bad and costly mistake, leading to a fire in terrible conditions. 

“There’s a lot of lessons to be learned.” 

Emergency services received multiple triple-zero calls to the Snowsill family home about 7.30pm. The Mercury understands there were visitors and family members evacuated before the home burnt to the ground.

The fire spread northward, melting the front end of a car, badly damaging a boat and completely razing a neighbouring home. The tenants, former Bulli High School students Sophie Morgan-Smith and James Carrett, both 21, lost everything.

Mr Carrett was at work in Fairy Meadow when a friend urgently called him home. He and Miss Morgan-Smith watched from opposite sides of a 200-metre exclusion zone as crews from 20 fire trucks worked to stop the fire from spreading to a third home, which was damaged but ultimately spared. 

Residents comfort each other at the scene of the house fires. Photo: Adam McLean

Residents comfort each other at the scene of the house fires. Photo: Adam McLean

Mr Carrett said his father – a carpenter – died last year and he was sentimental about losing his belongings. 

“It was more his tools, the photos that can’t be replaced. Just bits and pieces I’d picked up from his house,” he said. 

“You feel very lost [afterwards]. You just don’t know what is the next step to take. We’re just taking it day by day.” 

Mr Carrett said he intended to meet with those affected by the fire, including the boys who started the blaze. 

“There’s no hard feelings,” he said. 

“It’s a mistake, a total mistake, and these things happen. Exposing them to this at a young age potentially could have an impact on them emotionally, later in life. I’ll support them.” 

In the days since, thoughts in the tight-knit northern enclave have turned to supporting both households, with Gofundme campaigns approaching almost $20,000 combined, as at Monday night

The blaze started a spot fire several doors down, where Matt Fatches and his partner feared for their own home. 

Despite this he said he wished the boys well. 

“Everyone’s a bit worried about them now. Hopefully they’re not going to be too wrecked by it. It’s silly, you you’ve got to have some compassion for them as well. It’s just a dumb mistake, learnt the hardest possible way.” 

This story Coalcliff man who lost everything forgives boys who lit backyard fire first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.