Benalla fire destroys house, antique collection |PICTURES

A FIRE that yesterday levelled a Benalla home has destroyed a collection of antiques accumulated by the residents over their lifetimes.

The couple, aged in their 40s, had left their home at 4.45am to travel to a swap meet in Whittlesea before firefighters were called to their Mansfield Road home at 6am.

Firefighters from Benalla, Baddaginnie, Warrenbayne and Swanpool stations could see a glow in the sky from kilometres away and when they arrived at the fire scene 10 minutes later, the house had been destroyed.

CFA district 23 duty officer Paul Horton said crews spent a frantic hour trying to determine if anyone was trapped inside the home.

“There was one car in the carport, but thankfully they’d left early to go to a swap meet at Whittlesea,” Mr Horton said.

Police made a phone call to the couple to confirm where they were and they returned to their home to find it gutted.

“They were visibly upset for some minutes,” he said.

“They were collectors of antiques — from grandfather clocks to mahogany book cases — so it was desperate bad luck for them, but they have their health and they were insured.”

The couple were renting the home but were in the process of preparing to move.

Yesterday afternoon, Mr Horton said fire and police investigators had ruled the blaze was not suspicious, but they might never be able to determine the cause given the extensive damage.

“It may go down in our records as undetermined,” he said.

Mr Horton said each year there were more than 4500 house fires in Victoria — 12 a day.

Electrical faults are one of the major causes of the fires.

Mr Horton urged people to get their heaters serviced as the weather started to cool and to be wary of overloading powerboards.

“Overloaded powerboards and power points can overheat and start a fire,” he said.

“In some of our older homes in rural Victoria some of the wiring hasn’t been upgraded for the use of new technology,” he said.

“There’s been significant growth of electricity in the past 15 years.

“We strongly recommend extra power points because that means they will be installed properly.”

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