A frantic call
At 1.40am on Saturday 5th September, I was awoken by a frantic call from my sister. Mum and dad's house was on fire!!! They were both out and safe, but their home was going up in flames. I leaped out of bed, threw on some clothes and whilst running out the door explained to my boyfriend what had happened. I jumped in my car and drove over to my parents house.
When I got there the street was filled with police cars and several fire engines, so I abandoned my car and ran the rest of the way. It was clear that their neighbour's (my friends) house had gone up in flames too. My parents were stood opposite their house with my sister and lots of neighbours that had come out to help. Everyone was looking dazed, but it was very calming to see the firemen dealing with the burning houses. The flames had gone out, but you could still see the hot embers and the firemen were throwing things out of the roof. There were fire hoses trailed all along the street with several going into my parents house and others being used on the neighbour's roof. I was relieved to see my friend and her husband and children were safe.
Thankfully my mum is a light sleeper and heard strange noises...she got my dad to investigate, which was when he saw flames under the eaves of the neighbour's house. The smoke alarms didn't go off at first because the smoke was in the loft.
It became apparent that the fire had started in my friend's roof and had spread across to my parents. Seeing it in the daylight was quite a shock. My friend had lost most of their roof, probably fuelled by their boiler that was installed in the loft (it exploded and sent tiles flying into the air!) and their whole house was water damaged; they lost everything. The roof on my parent's house looked relatively unscathed; just a patch of sunken tiles. It wasn't until you saw inside the house that the destruction was more apparent. Much of the upstairs was damaged with water and the inside of the loft...well it was a blackened hole. The beams are so burnt that the roof could collapse. Downstairs looks fine, but stinks of acrid smoke.
The fire is thought to have been started by Glis Glis (edible dormice) chewing through the wiring. The edible dormouse is a squirrel-like creature that was accidentally released into the wild in Tring from Lionel Walter Rothschild's private collection in 1902 (The founder of the Natural History Museum in Tring). These cute little creatures are quite a pest in the area, but they are protected, so can only be got rid of by licensed exterminators.
Many of our childhood memories (toys, photographs etc) were stored up in the loft. We still don't know if anything escaped the flames and smoke, as we have to wait until they bring people in to clear it out for us. We had got round to scanning some of the photos, but there are many that could be lost forever. I don't know if you are like me, but photos are so important to help me remember things - there is nothing I love more than to go though all my parent's old photos. All of this has made me look at how fire safe my own home is and also are we covered enough with insurance, should it ever happen to us. I will also be making sure all my own photos are protected.
At the bottom of this blog, you will find a link to a Fire Safety in the Home leaflet. Make sure you check your own home and know what to do should there be a fire. Most local fire services will actually send an officer round to fire safety check your home for free and in some cases provide you with smoke alarms.
Check your home insurance...does it really cover every little thing you own? I was chatting to the chap that was assessing the damage and he said that most people don't get enough cover. A 3 bed house of my parents size, should have at least £60,000 contents cover (theirs does thankfully). Another chap I chatted to (he co-ordinates the repairs) said that since doing his job, he has been extra careful in his own home...he will never leave a laptop plugged in as they are a big culprit for overheating and starting fires. He also never leaves any appliances (washing machine, dishwasher, tumble dryer) running whilst out of the house as they are also things that have caused some of the worst fires he has seen. Another thing he has done is get a fire proof box for all his precious photographs. He said he makes sure he has yearly photographs with his photographer because he knows they will always store a copy for him, so should anything happen to his copy, it can always be reproduced (we do the same at our studio - every photograph our clients purchase is kept on file indefinitely. Copies can also be purchased by the client on USB so they can give it to a friend for safe keeping).
So anyway...my parents and their neighbours are having to find a temporary home for the next 6 months whilst their own homes are repaired. It's been a tough time, but we are all very, very grateful that our parents and friends are alive! We are also grateful to have such wonderful friends, neighbours and family. My parents have had so many kind offers of help. I'm going to be taking over the running of the studio, so that my mum can sort out moving. Lets hope I can get more photo shoot bookings to help my parents pay for everything in advance of getting the insurance payout!
Keep safe people! xxx