real life

"Everything's gone." Annabel's mum called her at 4:30am. Their family home was burning to the ground.

Annabel Hopkins’ family home sits in a pretty normal suburban street on the New South Wales’ Central Coast.

As we head towards summer, bushfire threats are once again front of mind. But for the neighbourhood of Wamberal, fire isn’t something that’s feared.

So when Annabel woke up to a phone call from her mum on Sunday morning at 4:30am, she panicked. But never in a million years did she expect to hear her mum screaming “the house is burning down” on the other end of the line.

What smoke alarm is best? Post continues after video.

Video by Ten

“Usually I am the heaviest sleeper and I don’t know why [I heard it],” she told Mamamia. “The coincidence as well is that I had my phone on loud. It was quite disorientating hearing my mum in complete distress,” she said.

“She just kept repeating the phrase ‘everything’s gone’ ‘everything’s gone’. She was just so upset, I can’t even describe the tone of voice,” said Annabel.

Annabel lives in Sydney, an hour away from where her mum, dad, brother and family dog reside. As soon as she got off the phone she had her bags packed and had woken up her housemate to drive her up the coast.

“I couldn’t physically drive myself,” the 22-year-old explained. She was too shaken.

The Hopkins family home was destroyed by fire on the weekend. Image: NBN.

Annabel's mother had been sleeping in her old room when the fire broke out; she'd recently had a back operation and it had easier access. Her father was in their master bedroom at the back of the house. Her 26-year-old brother had left for work an hour before.

"My dad heard a giant pop and 30 seconds later the smoke alarms went off," said Annabel.

Annabel explained that it wasn't until the alarms started whirring that her parents were properly roused.

"You hear a 'pop' but you don't think much of it, it was the alarm that really woke them," she said. "Dad ran straight downstairs and he saw orange flames at the back of the house."

Her father opened the back door and the hot air and the cold air collided further fuelling the rapidly growing fire. In that moment he knew they had to get out - there was no saving the house.

"He ran back upstairs and screamed for Mum. By the time he put some trackies on and ran back down the whole back of the house was gone," said Annabel.

Walls were ripped apart by flames. Image: NBN.

Her mother managed to grab a few things that were in her immediate vicinity - her phone, wallet, some jewellery and even her passport. But that's all the Hopkins have now.

All that's left of the home which they raised their children in, and which they only recently finished renovations on - are three structural walls. It was supposed to be their "forever home" which they'd enjoy retirement in, but now it's quite literally a pile of ash.

"My mum put every bit of heart and soul she had into that house," said Annabel. "It was a mixture of my mum's motherhood and my dad's livelihood just gone within 10 minutes, and it's something I can see on their faces," said Annabel.


Annabel got to the wreckage at 7am the morning of the fire.

"It was so hard to see," she told Mamamia. "I was standing there going through room by room of the different memories [I made there]," she said.

Annabel Hopkins
Annabel's parents' lives were likely saved by the fire alarms that alerted them to the flames. Image: Supplied.

Of course they're grateful to have their health, as Annabel acknowledges it could've "100 per cent been worse".

"But my whole family has spent the week reliving the memories we've lost. Thinking about all the prized possessions that are no more, from my granddad who passed, things my mum was saving from childhood. Things that meant the world to us," she said.

The fire, they think, was electrical. Starting in either the back wall or on the back deck. The Hopkins are just relieved they've spent their lives adamant about the importance of smoke alarms and hope that's the message others take from this.

"The builders advised them to just put them at the top [of the house], but my parents told them 'no, a fire could potentially start at the bottom'. These little small things they've done over the years, that's what saved them," said Annabel.

The family is currently living with their Nan nearby, trying to fathom what's next.

"We don't know how long this process is going to be, my parents are constantly on the phone organising. Luckily we had house insurance, but they've literally just got the clothes on their backs. It's going to be a long few months," Annabel told Mamamia.

The Central Coast community have rallied around the family, and have set up a GoFundMe account to help them get back on their feet. You can find it here. 

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