South Coast house fire survivor finds her paradise in Eden

Elicia Faccioni said her faith in humanity has been restored since receiving overwhelming support from the community after losing her home. Photo: Leah Szanto
Elicia Faccioni said her faith in humanity has been restored since receiving overwhelming support from the community after losing her home. Photo: Leah Szanto

When she arrived in Eden in May of this year, Elicia Faccioni would never have imagined what she and her family were going to endure.

The 35-year-old came to the Far South Coast during the pandemic to support her father Phil and had just been through lockdown in Brisbane.

"Dad said he wanted to go travelling, but the pandemic was happening so I said I'd come and stay with him and help him get organised," Ms Faccioni said.

Two weeks ago the father and daughter lost their home in a house fire on West Street, a traumatic event that has resulted in an outpouring of support from the Eden community.

"When I first arrived in Eden, I had some issues with the town and felt people were rude, but when the house burnt down it was a complete 360," she said.

"Everyone opened up their homes and their pantries, half of them have got nothing and yet they were prepared to give me all they could, it was so incredibly humbling.

Ms Faccioni is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and her two pedigree cats Zumii and Yoshi are her service animals, helping to soothe her in challenging times.

Also a survivor of ovarian cancer, Ms Faccioni is not able to have children and said her cats are the closest thing she has to that connection.

The house on West Street was well alight when emergency services arrived. Photo: FRNSW

The house on West Street was well alight when emergency services arrived. Photo: FRNSW

The house fire began while she was asleep in bed, but despite suffering smoke inhalation, she re-entered the house multiple times to try to locate and extract her precious pets, to no avail.

"Although they've been sighted, I haven't seen them since the house burned down, I'm struggling without them," she said.

"I had inhaled so much smoke I couldn't move, I thought I was going to die, but all of a sudden someone pulled me out, it was my neighbour Wayne, the next time it was my other neighbour Theresa.

"I could hear the ceiling, everything was starting to move, but I just needed to know where my babies were.

"Then the fire truck arrived and the four of us stood out the front of the house and watched them wash away my life, it was literally gone in a puff of smoke," Ms Faccioni said.

I honestly have not connected with humans in this way in my life - I feel accepted here and like I have found my brood

Elicia Faccioni

In the aftermath of the fire, Ms Faccioni stayed with another neighbour, Jen, who had initially alerted the RFS to the fire, for a few days.

"She hadn't even met me and offered me a room and took really good care of me, she was so nurturing and welcomed me in to her home," Ms Faccioni said.

"I am usually not comfortable unless I am in my home, but she is an amazing human, she made me feel like I wasn't a stranger and the fact I could lay my head down and actually sleep was testament to the kind of person she is.

"She directed me to all the people I could call for clothes, housing, everything - she slingshotted me in the right direction and was the perfect person to have walked in to my life at that time.

The house and contents were completely destroyed by the fire on 17 November, 2020. Photo: Leah Szanto

The house and contents were completely destroyed by the fire on 17 November, 2020. Photo: Leah Szanto

"Since I have been here I have been putting out good vibes and showing people the real me, I honestly have not connected with humans in this way in my life - I feel accepted here and like I have found my brood," she said.

Pam Skelton from the Community Pantry helped Ms Faccioni with food and toiletries and Judy Korner offered her money for accommodation and clothes from the bushfire relief shop.

"It was like a movie montage, it was beautiful, I couldn't be happier about the help I have received," she said.

"I am still piecing my life together, I have no photos, no nothing, it's all gone. Photos can be replaced but memories can't, we have to make new ones."

Ms Faccioni is staying at the caravan park and desperately trying to find a rental while she waits for the insurance claim on the house to be processed.

Her cousin has set up crowdfunding campaign to help support Ms Faccioni and her father in the meantime and the search for her missing cats continues.

"It has restored my faith in humanity that there are people who will put their lives at risk to save yours - Wayne and Theresa saved my life - I will never ever be able to repay them.

"I have definitely found some friends for life here."

Read also: