Andy Lutze was driving back to his Darley home on May 4 when he realised something was wrong.
As he got closer he could see emergency services vehicles blocking his street.
When his daughter Rachael’s fiance came running up to the car in tears, he feared the worst.
Less than an hour earlier, an inferno had ripped through his home, destroying much of the house and a lifetime of memories.
“My initial thought when I saw Jason was that my daughter had been killed in a car accident and my heart just sank to the floor,” Andy said. “So when Jason told me that everyone was OK and it was only the house it was almost a sigh of relief.”
Earlier in the evening, Andy’s wife, Sara, was getting their six-year-old grandson, Chase, ready for bed, turning on the electric blanket and preparing his dinner.
It wasn’t long before Sara and Rachael heard a noise from the bedroom. When they investigated they found the blanket had caught fire. The fire was soon out of control.
“They called triple-0 immediately and tried to smother the fire, but once it reached the doona it all went up,” Andy said.
“It’s a four-poster bed, so it crept up that quickly and into the ceiling, exploding the solar panels, and within about eight minutes about two thirds of the house had burned down.
“It’s one of the worst things ever to come home to and find your house burned down.
“But I take comfort that if that fire had started an hour later, my grandson would have been in that bed and the story would have been much different. That’s just incomprehensible.”
The fire claimed much of the house, along with furniture, clothes, photo albums and memories. One of the family cats died of smoke inhalation, while another is still missing.
On top of all that, Rachael and Jason were due to move into their new home in Bacchus Marsh this week, and had stored most of their furniture at the Darley house.
They lost everything in the blaze, with their belongings not covered under the insurance of Andy and Sara.
A GoFundMe page was set up with a $5000 cap to provide short-term help for the family.
The target was reached inside two days, with Andy saying the family had been “overwhelmed” by the response.
“It’s been absolutely incredible,” he said. “We basically had the clothes on our back, so just being able to have some clean clothes, shoes, toiletries – all those essential that you need – has been fantastic.
“We’re incredibly thankful to the whole Darley community and the council for the help that has been offered in the days since the fire.
“The phone hasn’t stopped ringing with people wanting to help our family.”
Andy said the family planned to eventually rebuild the house.