'To put food on the table or pay insurance': WA family in crisis after fire destroys home

'To put food on the table or pay insurance': WA family in crisis after fire destroys home

Steven Mcmahon says there has never been a time that his family needs him like now but he has no choice but to fly back out to work today.

He needs to drum up the money to rebuild his uninsured family home in Dawesville after it was gutted by fire last week.

Just 16 months earlier the family was struggling through hard times - he was unemployed and his wife Makuini had only casual work.

"We had to make a choice to put food on the table or pay insurance," Mr Mcmahon said. "I think we made the right choice at the time but we're paying for it now."

I wouldn't be anything without my wife and kids. So I'll do whatever it takes to get our house back.

The plan had been for him to stop fly-in fly-out work and find something residential but the $80,000 damage to the house means he'll have to work away for longer than planned.

"I wouldn't be anything without my wife and kids," Mr Mcmahon said. "So I'll do whatever it takes to get our house back."

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The family has owned the Albany Drive house for eight years.

It was nothing fancy, Mr Mcmahon said, just a budget four bedroom, two bathroom house without any frills.

"But it was our dream and it still is - I'm not giving up."

Paying a mortgage for those eight years had been "hard yards" but nothing compared to the aftermath of the fire, he said.

A dreaded phone call

He had finished his shift at work five minutes earlier when he got the dreaded phone call telling him his house had burnt down.

His two sons, 12-year-old Patrick and 14-year-old Stevie had been left home alone for 40 minutes while his wife dropped a friend into Mandurah.

"The kids had been using candles in the patio area," Mr Mcmahon said.

"One was in the shower and one was in his room and next minute the smoke alarm went off."

Stevie got his brother out of house, ran next door and told neighbours, who switched off the power to the house before the fire brigade arrived.

The steel frame meant the structure of the house could be saved but just a shell remained - the inside was in disrepair and all their belongings were destroyed.

After dealing with the grief of the shocking news, the Mcmahons have slowly been making plans to start rebuilding.

"I've shed so many tears, I don't think I can shed many more," Mr Mcmahon said.

"The community out here are unbelievable - I couldn't thank them enough, it's been overwhelming. If it wasn't for people around us we wouldn't be able to start again - we wouldn't be in a position to keep our house."

Among neighbours on the street are an electrician and a ceiling plasterer donating their time - and other tradies have offered their services also.

"We're so grateful because that saves us money that we can use elsewhere."

Coming to terms

Mr Mcmahon is a casual worker and says he has no choice but to head back to work for a 2/1 roster.

"I feel like I have to walk away from a situation where I'm needed and yet we need the money more than anything now," he said.

But he said the fire devastated more than the home - it had traumatised his family.

"My oldest boy is an absolute mess and is finding it really hard to come to terms with," Mr Mcmahon said.

"We are trying to keep to a routine and keep them at school. We're trying to keep a close eye on him, we've been having one-on-ones making sure he's in the right head space, that's my biggest worry, making sure he's okay."

They hope to be able to move back into the house in five to six months and are staying with family in Mandurah in the meantime.

Family and friends have set up a Gofundme page to help the Mcmahons get back on their feet. It had raised $3390 of its $100,000 goal on Friday.