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By Bonny Burrows

A young Pakenham family with two autistic children has been left homeless after a fire tore through their home, destroying everything they owned in the space of 20 minutes.
Emily Marsh, partner Joel and her children Katison and Tye, were forced to flee their home in nothing but their pyjamas after the Henry Street property they had rented for four years caught alight about 12.30am on 3 August.
Ms Marsh was sleeping with her partner on the lounge room couch and told the Gazette of the moment she awoke to the house on fire.
“It was black everywhere. It just went up so quick,” Ms Marsh said.
“Within eight minutes we had to get across the road as the windows were blowing out,” Ms Marsh said.
“We just ran; the bangs were so scary.”
Within 20 minutes fire had gutted the home and all its contents, leaving Ms Marsh and her family “in hysterics”.
Police are not treating the fire as suspicious and Ms Marsh believes the blaze was started by a cushion that had been kicked off the couch towards the heater during the night.
The accident, she said, had cost the family everything but each other.
“It was pretty run down, but it was home for us,” Ms Marsh said.
“Still, I’ve got my boys when it comes down to it and that’s what matters.”
The members of the family are now trying to piece their lives back together.
They have been flooded with donations of toiletries by Emerald Woolworths and clothes and vouchers from the boys’ school, Pakenham Springs Primary, but with no permanent accommodation are struggling to find a sense of normal.
Katison, 9, and Tye, 6, are still coming to terms with losing their home and moving from hotel room to hotel room.
A stable environment has been found to go a long way towards managing autism and stresses that such sudden disasters can bring on.
“Thursday night (10 August) was the first night the boys have slept with the lights off,” Ms Marsh said.
“It hasn’t been easy on them, all this moving around.”
Ms Marsh wants nothing more than to give her boys a place to call home, however it’s proved difficult.
Having privately rented the Henry Street home for four years, Ms Marsh has no rental history despite “always paying rent on time”.
Crisis support services offered money, not accommodation, Ms Marsh said, and the cost of hotels was seeing the family quickly burn through the donated funds.
“And while I appreciate all the help and the donations, we have nowhere to store them. What we really need is somewhere to stay long-term,” she said.
“Yes we have family and friends, but we’re all struggling. And with the boys’ autism, we don’t want to become a burden on another family.
“We just need that one chance – someone to give us a chance.”
Anyone who can help out can call Ms Marsh on 0416 615 904.

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