‘It’s been tough but we’re alive’ – Greenbay father left homeless by fire

Rowan White comforts one of his two sons in front of the ruins of their Greenbay home on Monday (Photo by Gemma Handy)
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Officials say investigations continue into identity of burnt body and cause of blaze

By Gemma Handy

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A Greenbay father whose family was among several left homeless by Monday’s catastrophic fire says he’s battling on to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Rowan ‘Idris’ White told Observer he lost everything he owned to the blaze, save for a few items of clothing and a television set that he managed to grab before the flames razed his house to the ground.

Around 16 people lost their homes in the inferno which ripped through a narrow street near Greenbay Primary School on Monday morning.

One resident has not been seen since the fire broke out and is feared to have perished. A body was discovered inside one of the properties but is yet to be formally identified.

White and his two children are currently staying with his mother who lives a stone’s throw from his destroyed house. But while they have temporary shelter, the constant reminder of their former life is galling.

“The last couple of days have been tough. I am by my mum right now and the fire is just right across and every time I look outside I see the place, the memories, and I have to go inside and lie down and try my best to keep my eyes off it,” he said.

“We can’t do no cleaning up until the investigation is finished. It’s not a beautiful sight.”

Police and fire officials told Observer yesterday that investigations remain underway into both the identity of the body found at the scene and the cause of the blaze.

But local residents are convinced the remains are that of their neighbour, a man they say was in his 40s and who they described as reticent.

“We all around here know it’s him because we are accustomed to seeing him going to work and back,” White said.

The man was apparently seen on his gallery shortly before the fire started.

“And no one saw him leave,” he added.

Meanwhile, White, a landscaper who works at the Mill Reef Club, said his sons who are aged 15 and 10 have been left traumatised by the disaster.

He told Observer he had raised them alone for most of their lives.

“I am mother and father for my kids; I’ve been doing that for years now since they were small,” he explained.

“The boys are stressed out but we have to live with it. It’s something we have to go through but we have to thank God we are alive.

“A lot of people are showing them much love so it’s lifting their spirits. But they’re still down; it’s not going to be easy,” White added.

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