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HomeNewsFire Spreads Through Beloved Christmas Light Street in Balgowlah

Fire Spreads Through Beloved Christmas Light Street in Balgowlah

Locals in Balgowlah have come to know Seaview Street well over the years, as families flock every summer to catch a glimpse of its annual Christmas lights display. 

But in the early hours of Monday morning, 8 May 2023, residents instead found themselves helplessly watching at least two of these same homes were alight in flames.

Over 50 firemen pumped water from multiple mains near the Street (Source: Fire NSW).

Having just come back from a weekend in Canberra, neighbour Tanuja West, woke to the smell of smoke just after 2am and raced downstairs to check on her teenaged son.

“We have a window above our steps that looks into the neigbour’s backyard. It was then that I could see the shed was on fire,” she said.

“It was already quite advanced, the flames were really starting to take up.”

She woke her husband Graham, who called emergency services while she rushed out to knock on doors and alert neighbours to the growing fire. 

Firefighters were on the scene within 10 minutes, but strong winds made the blaze difficult to contain, with embers repeatedly blown across houses down the street.

The remains of the fire-damaged house at 44 Seaview St Balgowlah, Sydney, Australia.The facade remains but the back of the house has been destroyed.  Photo: Alec Smart, Monday 8 May 2023

“The wind was unbelievable at that time. It was so windy, it was just crazy,” Tanuja said, “the flames were going higher and higher, and we were getting weighed down with all of the embers flickering around.”

Over 50 firefighters were ultimately called in from stations across the Beaches. Crews from 13 trucks hooked up various mains to a relay pump with hose lines along adjoining streets, drawing enough water pressure to tackle the fire from multiple directions. 

Crews remained on site all morning to ensure the fire did not reignite (Source: Fire NSW).

Meanwhile, Police went around waking people up on West Street and in the path of the fire. 

“The whole neighbourhood was standing around. It felt like the longest time. Everybody around was just so nervous.”

For nearly two hours the fire spread, causing significant damage to two houses, before being contained. Fire wardens went around checking properties and letting people back into their homes just after 4am. 

A couple in a house close to the burning shed managed to safely get out, as well as the family with the shed on their lot. 

“They just had blankets around themselves. They didn’t have anything with them. I don’t think they had the time to [collect any belongings] as well,” Tanuja said. 

Neighbours have shared images of the house that brought them joy for years at Christmas Manly Observer’s social pages.. (source: Jeanne Webb)

“Everyone comes from all over the neighbourhood to look at their house during Christmas. Every year, their Christmas lights are just out of this world, they go into too much effort,” she said.

“To think of the beauty they’ve created. It’s sad now, people are staring at such a disaster scene. They’re such generous people at Christmas.”

“To think of the beauty they’ve created. It’s sad now, people are staring at such a disaster scene. They’re such generous people at Christmas.”

A fire investigation is underway;  it is not being treated as suspicious.

Manly Observer is liaising with neighbours regarding any additional support that affected family may need. We will update here and on our social pages once we are advised how those willing to help can do so. 

Important reminder from NSW Fire + Rescue

All the homes impacted in the Balgowlah had working smoke alarms and it is believed the fire started outside the main houses. 

While the cause of this fire is unknown, NSW Fire Superintendent Adam Dewberry said he wanted to use our platform to advise locals of a recent an uptick in house fires since the cold snap.

Fire Brigade vehicles outside the remains of the fire-damaged house at 44 Seaview St Balgowlah, Sydney, Australia. Photo: Alec Smart, Monday 8 May 2023

“First and foremost, every home must make sure they have working smoke alarms on all levels that are less than 10 years old,” Superintendent Dewberry told the Manly Observer, “And if you sleep with the doors shut, put other ones up with double sided tape in those bedrooms.” 

“With the community pulling out their winter appliances, we also want people to take the time to check the operation of their electric blankets, heaters, and clothes dryers,” he said.

“Test before turning them on and going to bed. Make sure they get even heat to them, no individual or isolated hot spots. Clean them, dust them, service them. Don’t just set and forget.”

“I would [also] urge everyone to check their insurance; that it’s current and adequate. As much as we don’t like paying them each year, at times like this, they’re worth their weight in gold.”


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Manly Observer is an experiment in providing non-sensationalist hyperlocal news on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We cover the big news across the LGA, but with a hyper focus on the Manly electorate encompassing Balgowlah, Seaforth, Freshwater, Brookvale and Curl Curl up to Dee Why. It is run by those living in the community for the benefit of an informed community. We care about an informed and connected community. That’s it. Simple. Thank you for your support in keeping quality local news alive!

Kim Smee, Editor

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