A Gwabegar family has thanked the community for rallying to support them after their home burned down.
“There are no words to describe how wonderful this small town and community have been – they’re like family,” said Rebekah Ward.
The house Mrs Ward shared with her husband James and three sons John, 12, Charlie, 9, and Oliver, 7, was sadly destroyed by fire on Friday, May 21.
Inquiries are continuing, but Mrs Ward said authorities believed the blaze could have been sparked by mice chewing electrical wires.
The Ward family’s devastating story made national news headlines and has highlighted the emotional and economic toll of the mouse plague that’s been wreaking havoc across country NSW.
“It’s a living hell,” said Mrs Ward.
“Nothing is clean; your house smells like mice, even the boys say it’s horrible.
“It’s mentally draining and it’s scary.
“You think you’re on top of it and they just keep coming back.”
Mrs Ward works as an aged care nurse and her husband James works as a farmhand, and she said the mouse plague is having a huge impact on agriculture.
“We’ve had the drought and now the mouse plague, so the farmers haven’t had a break,” said Mrs Ward.
“It’s just one extreme to the next; when is it going to end? And I don’t think the government understands that.”
Mrs Ward remains remarkably upbeat despite losing her home and possessions but said her spirits have been lifted by people’s willingness to lend a helping hand.
“If I break, then the boys will break, and James will break,” she said.
“I guess it’s the mum who has to try and carry them all through.”
Mrs Ward said she is incredibly thankful that no one was injured in the fire.
“It could’ve been a lot worse than what it was,” she said.
“The boys had just got to football training when James got the phone call (about the fire), and he packed the boys back in the car and headed straight home.
“Once James got home the house was well alight.
“And when I got home, I couldn’t comprehend what was happening because the front of the house had already burned, it was just smoking.”
Mrs Ward said a neighbour kindly helped to save their pet dog named Little Miss and cat named Lexie.
The kindness and generosity since the fire has overwhelmed the Ward family and they are very appreciative that their small community has such a big heart.
“Even the night of the fire, at first I felt so alone and then within 10 minutes I had been given blankets,” said Mrs Ward.
“The locals that were there rallied around to get us clothes to keep us all warm.
“I’ve had people ringing and donating more clothes, stuff for the house.
“For such a small little town it’s just been crazy.
“The kids had been involved in Indigenous games at Goodooga so when I went to the school today even Goodooga had donated stuff and Coonabarabran High School.”
Friends have also set up a GoFundMe page and a rental property was organised by a local real estate agency after the Ward family shared their story on Channel 9, last week.
Mrs Ward said her sons attended Gwabegar Public School and praised the principal Katie Sullivan and the school community for their heart-warming and professional response to the horrific situation.
“Katie got the kids into their new uniforms and two counsellors were there ready to take the kids in, I’ve never known a school to be like that – it is just amazing,” said Mrs Ward.
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