Home built for bushfires stays standing, others are rubble

Bushfire-proof Rosedale home designed by architect Thomas Caddaye remains where most others are rubble

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The architect said it might take a while for people to rebuild, but he hopes the home can give people confidence to live in bushland settings again.

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A NSW South Coast home built to the highest standard of bushfire protection has survived an intense fire that destroyed all but two of the 20 homes on the street.

A ferocious firefront from the Currowan blaze tore through Rosedale on New Year's Eve, destroying homes and bushland and leaving devastation in its path.

On the same day, a large part of Conjola Park was reduced to rubble, Mogo lost multiple buildings and Malua Bay homes and businesses were destroyed.

Rosedale home owners Ron Weir and Carol Behm were in Canberra at the time of the fire. On New Year's Day, after a few hours of thinking their newly finished holiday home had been razed, a photo came through via text of the house still standing. The neighbouring homes were gone.

"It stood out amongst the remains of all the other houses except one, which was also intact," Mr Weir said.

After the fire: Architect Thomas Caddaye designed the Rosedale home to withstand being in the "flame zone". Picture: Supplied

After the fire: Architect Thomas Caddaye designed the Rosedale home to withstand being in the "flame zone". Picture: Supplied

He said he spoke to the owners of the other house that survived and learnt they had put in a heat shield, like a corrugated iron barrier, on the side of the house where the firefront came from.

Thirteen days after the fire tore through the coastal hamlet, the couple was finally able to get back to see their home. The street's rubbish bins were only identifiable because of the metal wheel axles.

A wooden ladder stored under the house was mostly ash. But the chocolate biscuits in the pantry inside were still intact, and there was no hint of smoke indoors.

"We were just keen to go inside and check out the conditions in there and it was very pleasing to see," Mr Weir said.

The neighbouring homes reduced to rubble. Picture: Supplied

The neighbouring homes reduced to rubble. Picture: Supplied

While the house and its contents stood up very well, the PVC plumbing pipes underneath had melted away, and an outside plastic light above the front door was melted.

As required by the Australian standard due to the siting of the home in bushland, it was built to the highest level of the Bushfire Attack Level, called BAL-FZ, or flame zone.

It was designed by Canberra architect Thomas Caddaye and finished in 2017.

Mr Caddaye said it was clear the requirement for bushfire-resistant construction was what made a difference.

He said the bushfire rating that had to be complied with meant construction costs increased by about 20-25 per cent, but all in all it was still an affordable house, and looking at the result it seemed worth it.

Before the fire. Picture: Ross Caddaye

Before the fire. Picture: Ross Caddaye

The thing to note, he said, was in the standard the requirement is intended to protect life and property within the house.

"On the outside there are certainly some sacrificial parts and we've noticed a few things that will need replacing," Mr Caddaye said.

"After I'd done the inspection on Thursday, there had clearly been flames all over the walls, all of the rubber and silicone in the windows was flame-affected."

The bricks of the house next door had also been dislodged during the fire and smashed into the cladding, which caused some cracks.

"Compared to starting again, it's a small job of fixing up cladding and windows and things like that," Mr Caddaye said.

The Rosedale home was the first one Mr Caddaye had designed to withstand the extreme conditions, although he had previously worked on homes requiring lower levels of bushfire protection.

"It was quite a lengthy and complicated process and at the time we were a little bit frustrated, but I think now our opinions have been changed," he said.

"The last thing you want is for no one to be living in these types of beautiful bushland settings. When you're down at Rosedale standing on the street you think the worst thing that could happen is for no one to rebuild.

"I hope people have the confidence to live there again. You can understand it might take a while though."

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