The rear of the two units are fully ignited.
The rear of the two units are fully ignited. Gail Daley

Coastal units burst into flames

AN Angourie chef and a surfer are lucky to be alive after the two units in which they were asleep caught fire just before dawn on Saturday.

Frangipan restaurant’s sous chef Troy Ralston, 30, had to run through flames in his lounge room to escape the inferno and was taken to Maclean District Hospital with smoke inhalation and burns to his hands and feet.

Surfer Aaron Brophy, aged in his 20s, escaped with only minor burns.

It is believed both men lost everything in the fire, which ripped through their units, part of a four-apartment unit complex situated behind Angourie’s main shopping and restaurant precinct on The Crescent.

The destroyed units, each with one bedroom and a loft, were on the south-east corner at the back of the complex, built by Australian legend surfer Nat Young with timber from his Nymboida farm about 20 years ago.

The area was still taped off yesterday while police investigators sorted through the charred debris.

Julie Fuller lives in the second oldest house in Angourie, directly in front of the units that caught fire.

“I heard a frightening, terrible roaring sound,” she said, “and then saw the flames that just kept getting bigger and bigger.

“It was lucky it wasn’t windy because the other two units would have gone up for sure.

“I was so scared I could lose my little house.

“It is the closest I have ever come to feeling so terrified.”

The owner of one of the damaged units, David Irving, said he woke up thinking someone was doing construction work.

“I realised when I looked outside it was still dark,” Mr Irving said. “When I walked outside there were three to four metre flames shooting above the roof line.”

Long-time Angourie resident Diana Webber, who dialled 000 when she first saw the blaze, described it as “20 feet of licking flames ... and a column of flame shooting straight into the air”.

Michael Williams, who lives across the road from where the blaze broke out, said he could see from his window a red glow and hear gas bottles hissing.

“At the time there were only a couple of people around then all of a sudden all of Angourie seemed to wake up. From here (home) it looked like the whole block of houses was going to go up.”

Tracy Hunt moved into her unit, next door to the two units, just two months ago.

“I heard these popping sounds and then saw flames coming from the balcony next door which is only half a metre away,” Ms Hunt said.

“I saw (that) both boys woke up and ran. Troy was in his bedroom and had to go through the flames, through the living room to get out.”

The last major fire in Angourie was in 1990.

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