News

Kelly and Nathan Bignell help Marj Coulter avoid dangerous house fire

By Madi Chwasta

Kelly Bignell and her son Nathan definitely wouldn't consider themselves heroes.

But they no doubt saved Cobram's Marj Coulter from what could've been a disastrous house fire.

“I just did what everyone else would've done,” Mrs Bignell said with a shrug.

Mrs Bignell, who owns Cobram Newsagency, was learning the morning newspaper run with her son on Saturday, May 2 (which also happened to be her 48th birthday). They were driving down Frank Talbot Dve about 5.40 am when Mrs Bignell noticed a sound.

“I could hear beeping,” she said.

“We drove past the house, and could see a fire inside the kitchen.”

Mrs Bignell slammed on the car's brakes and bolted to the door, banging on the flyscreen to see if anyone was inside.

She then saw Mrs Coulter appear from the bedroom.

“I've known Mrs Coulter since I was five — she lived two doors down,” Mrs Bignell said.

“I didn't know it was Mrs Coulter's house.”

She escorted a shocked Mrs Coulter outside, who told her she had already called for a fire truck. Mrs Coulter said there was a dog in the house, too; fortunately, Mrs Coulter's dog and best friend, Toro, soon appeared.

Mrs Bignell then ran back into the house to grab blankets to wrap around the shivering pair.

Mrs Coulter said the fire was in the kitchen sink, and at that point Nathan went into the house, which was filling with thick smoke. He saw the flames — which were just about reaching the ceiling — and turned on the water tap.

That was enough to extinguish the fire.

Two fire trucks arrived, and a CFA spokesperson said the situation was declared under control by 5.53 am.

An ambulance arrived to check on Mrs Coulter, and both Mrs Bignell and Nathan remained with her until she was given the all-clear and went to stay with a friend.

Mrs Coulter was thankful she had a working smoke detector, but also believed the timing was fate — her dog Toro was safe, and only the kitchen was damaged, thanks to Mrs Bignell and Nathan.

“It was fate that Kelly and Nathan were here at the same time it was all happening,” she said.

“Had it been another morning, nobody would've been awake.”

The close call happened after Mrs Coulter moved a paper shredder onto a hotplate when rearranging her kitchen bench.

She said she must have accidentally bumped the hot plate switch in the process, which turned it on.

“It was an accident, and I learned a valuable lesson,” Mrs Coulter said.

When the smoke detector went off and Mrs Coulter saw the flames, she quickly threw the shredder into the kitchen sink and ran into her bedroom to call 000.

As for Mrs Bignell and Nathan, they were thankful they were driving by and noticed something.

“Heroes are those fighting for our country, or are nurses and doctors,” Mrs Bignell said.

“We were in the right place at the right time.”