Family counting blessings, not loss

FOUR weeks ago, Robert and Claire Sykes lost almost everything they owned in a house fire.

A day later looters picked through the charred remnants of their Mowbray home and took what little remained.

Since then, the Sykes family has moved between two temporary houses and a hotel, their car has broken down, Mr Sykes has been hospitalised and a family member has died.

They don’t complain.

They are instead focused on the blessings: the  four children weren’t home when the fire started, they salvaged a couple of wedding photos, they only lost possessions, and Tasmanians have been so generous.

Mrs Sykes said she had taken her children out for the afternoon when she received a message: ‘‘OMG, are you OK?’’ Her friend had seen the smoke from blocks away.

She said Mr Sykes, who had stayed home for a nap, was woken by their smoke alarm.

‘‘He ran to the neighbours and rang the fire brigade, and by the time he came back there was fire coming out the window –  it was ridiculously fast,’’ Mrs Sykes said.

The fire caused $150,000   damage, and they lost all but a few belongings, but Mrs Sykes said it was nothing.

‘‘I’m devastated that I’ve lost my shoes and jackets and photos and stuff that you’ve taken years and years to collect – it’s really disappointing,’’ she said.

‘‘But it’s just stuff.

‘‘We know someone who lost their son a couple of months ago, and you just go, ‘our house burned down, who cares?’’’

However, Mrs Sykes said she was upset when she realised that her house had been looted.

‘‘There were about two hours between when we left the house and when it was boarded up, and someone broke in and stole our CDs,’’ Mrs Sykes said.

‘‘They would have been fairly stinky ones, and most of them are Christian ones, so obviously they needed them more than us.

‘‘It’s disappointing that they’d do that. The little that we have they decided to take.’’

But Mr and Mrs Sykes said good had far outweighed the bad.

The couple have now moved into a Trevallyn rental while an insurance company sorts out their claim, and they are surrounded by boxes and bags of clothes, toys, appliances and furniture donated by friends and strangers.

‘‘The sheer quantity of people’s generosity is overwhelming,’’ Mr Sykes said.

‘‘Yet at the same time you always hear that Tasmanians are very generous people and overwhelmingly  it’s the people who don’t have as much who are the most generous.

‘‘They know what it’s like to need, so they give.’’

 Rob and Claire Sykes with their children Jasmine, 2,  Gabe, 5, Will, 4, and 11-month-old Joshua. Picture: SCOTT GELSTON

Rob and Claire Sykes with their children Jasmine, 2, Gabe, 5, Will, 4, and 11-month-old Joshua. Picture: SCOTT GELSTON


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