Family Loses Everything in a Tristan House Fire
Report from Sue Ivory with photos from Paula Swain and Tracy Tough
Fighting the fire at its height.
An alarm was raised in the settlement at about midnight on Saturday 10th September 2022. The home of Eugene and Kirsty Repetto was on fire. The fire crew and other islanders responded rapidly, and managed to contain and extinguish the fire. They also used garden hoses to prevent further homes and nearby stands of New Zealand flax from catching fire. It helped that there was a full moon, and unusually no wind. The cause of the fire has not been determined.
Thankfully, Eugene and Kirsty, and their children Ella and Aiden all escaped, with only Eugene suffering minor burns. Even so, the fire burned the house down to the brickwork and destroyed all their belongings, including the children’s garden toys. Luckily, the fire did not reach the garage where their freezer and potatoes were stored.
Everyone in the community has been rallying round to support the family, and they have managed to go back to stay in the spare rooms of a family member. The community has been giving them spare clothes etc.
Of the family’s dogs Panda and Marlo, Panda was thought to have been lost in the fire. However he turned up at a relative’s home scared and in shock. Visitor Paula Swain stayed up all night with him to calm him down.
The mood on the island was sober and exhausted after such a challenging weekend. Many a prayer of thanksgiving has been given up for the safety of the family amidst such horror.
Appeal for Assistance
|Islanders build their houses from scratch with some local stone, and other materials which are saved-for and gradually imported from South Africa. It often takes years for couples to finish their home and move out from parents’ cottages.
Islanders are unable to insure their homes (due to remote location no company will insure them), so they now rely on kindness from the community. Although some support will be made available by the government, this will not be enough for them to replace everything that they have lost.
If anyone would like to make a contribution to help this beautiful family of four, the following crowdfunding campaigns have been set up for their benefit:
Set up by former Finance Office David Moores
Please note: the above crowd funding campaigns have been set up by relatives and friends, and are independent of the Tristan da Cunha Government and Tristan da Cunha Association.
Fire Precautions on Tristan
Tristan has one fire appliance – a Landrover specially equipped for firefighting – although there are limits to the size of conflagration it can extinguish. Sometimes its best use is to help prevent the spread of fire to neighbouring buildings and fuel stores.
At various strategic positions around the settlement, old propane gas cylinderss have been mounted in frames as fire alarm gongs. This is how the alarm was raised on this occasion. The Government will soon be installing a Klaxon that will be used going forward to raise the alarm in the event of an emergency.