Fire victim still optimistic

Les Walter’s house on Cardiff Road went up in flames on Monday with an estimated damage bill of $200,000, however the 76-year-old is optimistic in moving forward.

Mr Walter was on his scooter on his way home from the shops when he heard his phone ring. 

He could not answer the phone until it rang for a third time with the police on the line. 

“So by not answering the phone the first two times that was the panic that I was still in the house.”

Mr Walter has lived in the Cardiff Road house for 67 years and he estimates the house was built in the 1880s. 

While the damage bill of the house is estimated to be worth $200,000, Mr Walter said he and his brother, who owns the house, would not look at repairing the damage.

Mr Walter said the fire investigators were going through the house the day after the fire and had asked him what might have been switched on or off. 

"I had been setting up a new lithium battery as a backup battery for my scooter and it wasn't testing right (but) they could have found something else entirely," he said.

"When I was talking with the police, one of them said the back of the house had just collapsed and that's where all my book binding gear was and tonnes of paper and stuff that burns really easy.

"Apparently the roof of the front of the house has collapsed in one spot too.

"The only thing that would be usable again are the stone walls.”

Mr Walter has received an overwhelming response of support from residents and community groups, and has allowed the Red Cross to support him. 

“They've been absolutely wonderful (with) all the paperwork and arranging for temporary accommodation in a housing trust unit.”

None of Mr Walter’s belongings were insured and the house, owned by his brother, was not insured either.

“I’ve lost an incredible collection of very old, rare engineering books and manuscripts and computing equipment, printing equipment, book lining equipment, cinematography equipment, cameras and more.”

Mr Walter however did find some humour in some of his photography and cinematography equipment being lost in the fire. 

“I was contemplating a few weeks ago how do I dispose of what I'm not using these days and I don't have to worry about that now.”

The avid photographer, who was actively involved in the Port Lincoln Camera Club for many years, said he would look at buying a new camera. 

Mr Walter is now staying with his sister Rowena Derrick who said she was just glad he was alive.