By EMMA CORNFORD
A SOUTH Grafton house was destroyed by fire early yesterday morning.
The South Grafton and Grafton fire brigades were called to the blaze at around 2.30am and found the unoccupied house on the corner of Bent and Vere streets engulfed in flames. Vere Street neighbour Norma Purnell said she and her husband were evacuated from their house by fire crews because of fears the blaze could spread.
"(My husband) Tom had just woken up because he could hear a noise like little firecrackers going off and then he saw the flashing lights," Mrs Purnell said.
"It was around 2.30 and the firemen were banging on the door and told us to move our car and get out of the house."
Mrs Purnell, whose house received minor heat damage from the blaze, said the flames were 'enormous'.
"It was roaring, I can tell you," she said.
"A semi-trailer driver was out at Shell on the highway and he could see the flames from all the way out there, they were so big."
Owner of the house, Adrian Thomson, a truck driver originally from Grafton, was renting out the property while he was living in Sydney.
"I've been renting it out for about four years," he said.
"I only found out about (the fire) when a friend drove past and saw it and called me to let me know. It's pretty devastating."
South Grafton Fire Brigade captain Dennis Pye said the fire took about one hour to contain, but the first priority had been to save the house next door.
"When we got there the house was well and truly alight so when we saw the situation the other house was in, which is only about a metre away, we tried to stop the exposure to that house," Mr Pye said.
"It got a bit of damage, but not too much."
Mrs Purnell said the next door neighbours were on holidays, but had been contacted about the fire.
"They got smoke and water damage and one of their windows broke in, but they were really very lucky."
Police are treating the fire as suspicious and investigations into its cause are continuing.