An “overwhelming” number of volunteers and local businesses, plus a team from RNSA Culdrose, have rallied around a Helston family whose home was devastated by fire in Helston on Saturday.
Suzy Thalha and her two children, eight-year-old Ellie-Mai and 14-year-old Jessica, have been made temporarily homeless by the blaze, which gutted the ground floor of their Hellis Wartha home.
The fire originated in the tumble drier, in the garage, when towels set alight.
It quickly spread to the kitchen, which has been entirely decimated, and into the living room where fixtures and fittings were destroyed, including the sofa and television.
Suzy, who works for Sainsbury’s in Helston, had no house insurance and the council was just weeks away from buying her house from her, through a mortgage rescue scheme. It is not known what will happen now.
“I couldn’t afford the mortgage,” she said. “I was a week away from completing [the buyout]. I don’t know now.
“I’m not insured so I can’t afford to fix it. If they don’t go ahead I will have to leave it anyway.”
She said she was able to cope because the majority of her children’s belongings were upstairs and relatively unharmed.
“It’s all dirty, but at least I can say, ‘We’ve still got your stuff’. They’re the most important things,” she added.
Downstairs is a different story, however, the kitchen is black with soot, with plastic units and even the glass kitchen table melted from the heat.
The boiler exploded, the patio doors were blown out and all the downstairs windows have gone, plus one upstairs.
Both girls lost their bicycles, which were stored in the garage.
Friends and neighbours rallied around the family and began an appeal on Facebook for local tradesmen and companies to offer their support and donate items and services needed.
The result was overwhelming, with companies from across Cornwall coming forward to provide skips, trailers and vehicles to transport damaged goods and furnishings to the dump, with builders, electricians and heating suppliers offering their services, while individuals have been offering household items and clothing.
Still more offered manpower, with between 30 and 35 volunteers congregating early on Monday to help clear the charred items and start cleaning.
RNAS Culdrose sent a team from its workshop department.
Suzy said: “It’s just amazing. It’s unexpected. So many people said they would help, I’m just totally overwhelmed.”
She added of her neighbours and friends: “They’ve been great. Neighbours I don’t even know have been knocking on the door offering help.”
Her friend Felicity Woodman, who lives around the corner and has been leading the Facebook campaign, said: “She’s just a hardworking mum and she doesn’t deserve any more problems in her life.”
Suzy said her daughter Jessica had been alone in the house on Saturday morning and had decided to wash her bedding, which she put into the drier where there were already some towels.
After smelling “something funny” she pushed open the door and returned to the living room – but when she went back a while later the towels were on fire.
“She grabbed the dog and the cat and phoned me,” said Suzy, who was at work at the time.
Jessica was spotted standing outside by a neighbour, who dialled 999 but by that time the fire had taken hold.
Suzy is critical of today’s set up, where many permanently manned fire stations have been replaced with reserve firefighters, who are just called out when needed.
While thankful for the “great” work of the firefighters who attended, from Helston, Mullion and Falmouth, she said: “They just seemed to take forever to come. When you’re sitting watching your house on fire a few minutes seems forever.
“They were great when they got here and you can’t fault them. It’s not their fault. The system itself is s***.”
Two jets and two hosereels were used to put out the blaze, before a heat seeking camera was used to confirm there were no further hot spots.
Crews then used a high pressure fan to clear the house of smoke.
Later that day a fire investigation was carried out by two fire investigation officers. The fire investigation dog, Nelson, was brought into help and Devon and Cornwall Police were also on scene.
The fire and emergency support vehicle provided support to the family. At 4.45pm it was confirmed that the fire was believed to have been accidental.
Businesses and organisations that have come forward so far: Plumb Crazy (worktops and sinks), Trago Mills (kitchen cabinets), Sainsbury’s, WC Rowe, Simon Williams of SW Heating, Marconi Builders, Wheal Dream (meals for the family), HM Ground Works, architect Scott Hesketh (who will project manage), Mark Warden of Helston Electrical, FE Strike and Sons, The Mustard Seed, plumber Neil Jones.