Left with nothing: teenager homeless after suspicious house fire

UNINHABITABLE: Jacob Donovan at the burnt-out flat he believes was set on fire by a criminal gang.
UNINHABITABLE: Jacob Donovan at the burnt-out flat he believes was set on fire by a criminal gang.

THE Salvation Army was Jacob Donovan’s first stop on Saturday morning after he lost almost all his belongings in a house fire on Friday.

On Monday it will be the Orange youth refuge where he hopes to get help with emergency accommodation.

The fire in a public housing property in Maxwell Avenue, which police think may have been deliberately lit, all but destroyed his bed-sitter.

A flat on one side of Mr Donovan’s was unoccupied while no-one was at home in the third in the dilapidated fibro cottage.

With the power off and the stench of charred wood and burned bedding everywhere, the entire dwelling was left uninhabitable.

On Sunday he picked through the remains. All that was left were the blackened frame of a sofa and a metal bed base.

Outside was part of a cheap stereo that the fire-fighters had salvaged and left at the back of the house. 

Behind one adjoining flat were two shopping trolleys full of bags of sodden clothing.

Mr Donovan said his television had been stolen at his last home in Moad Street, a house that a gang had tried to torch after breaking in.

At 17 and unemployed, Mr Donovan said he was living with a cycle of neighbourhood crime that police don’t want to know about.

“There’s a group of people going around town robbing houses and setting fires,” he said yesterday.

“The police don’t give a crap about what we say. They come down on us, so we say if you’re not going to help just go away.”

He said people in the area were saying they had heard a gang of youths in the street. There was the sound of a building being pelted with stones and glass breaking.

On Saturday the teenager went to the Salvos and was given some clothes to wear.

On Monday he will head up to the youth refuge Emerge in Allenby Road, hoping for help with housing.

It is not his first visit to the emergency accommodation and support service.

“They’re brilliant,” he said.

Whatever he can get will be better than the back of a a car or the burnt-out flat that now has boarded up windows.

Police are continuing their investigation into who or what started the fire.


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