By Kirra Grimes
STILL recovering from a recent heart attack, Korumburra’s Herb Treacy said he “almost had another one” when he got a call in the middle of the night that his antiques shop was on fire.
At around 3am on Sunday, December 3, passers-by driving along Mine Road in Korumburra called emergency services to report the fire at Whitelaw Antiques, with Korumburra CFA attending the scene within minutes and quickly bringing the blaze under control.
But it wasn’t quick enough to save $50,000 worth of uninsured, irreplaceable antiques from turning to ash.
To catch the eye of incoming holiday crowds, Herb had put his best stock – including Georgian and Victorian furniture and Royal Doulton homewares – by the front window, where the blaze was concentrated.
Extensive damage – estimated at $100,000 worth – was also done to the building, which, luckily was insured.
Neighbouring buildings also received minor damage, including smoke damage to the Treacys’ real estate business, and melted pipes which cut off their water supply.
Despite the devastation, Herb says he wasn’t angry when he heard the news and that he has no hard feelings towards the town of Korumburra, his home of 45 years.
“You just go numb and think ‘what the hell?’. You can’t believe it. We’ve had the shop for 15 years and never had a problem. We get on with everyone. I’ve got no enemies. There’s no reason for it. But it’s just one of those things. And it could’ve been worse – at least no one was killed or hurt.
“I still love the town,” he says.
“This is not the norm for Korumburra. I’ve always had businesses here and it’s a great place. The community’s response has been great.
“The fire brigade did a mighty job and everybody has offered to help. We’re very grateful for everybody’s support.”
Herb’s wife Lorna says if Herb can survive a heart attack, he can survive this set back.
“It was a pretty bad one [heart attack]. He was unconscious and had to be resuscitated. That was a bit of a scare.”
In the midst of packing up the shop, to put the surviving goods into storage, Lorna found an old Singer sewing machine instruction manual, and was moved to recite a verse from the bookmark tucked inside: “Life is a challenge. Meet it”.
“It won’t hold us back. We’ll motor on,” said Herb.
It’s suspected a Molotov cocktail was used to start the blaze but this has not been confirmed by Bass Coast CIU, which is still investigating. Detective Senior Constable Paul Burns said the CIU is still waiting on results of forensic testing, including testing for accelerants.
He said the fire “appears to have been deliberately lit” and that anyone with information should contact Crimestopppers on 1800 333 000.
Herb says he’s “very confident” the police will get to the bottom of it. “It was probably just some ratbag. Some people just like a fire – they say there’s an idiot born every day. I’m sure they’ll find someone, but if anybody knows anything, please come forward because even the slightest thing might be useful.”
Herb is yet to decide if he’ll reopen the antiques shop. He says the mammoth clean up job is the first priority, and he will assess his options after that.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do. The main thing is to get it all tidied up. It’s a hell of a mess. Nothing will happen for three or four months. But we’ll get through.”