Chrissie Key and her six children luckily managed to escape the blaze at their Thornton Heath home unscathed but the fire destroyed all their possessions leaving them with only the clothes on their backs.
The traumatised family have been rehoused in temporary accommodation but five of the children are due back at school next week and Chrissie is desperately appealing for help with providing replacement uniforms and shoes for Shaniyah, aged 5, and Naiyah, aged 6, who attend Ecclesbourne Primary School.
Daniella, 11, and George, 15 also need replacement uniforms for next week when they return to Oasis Academy Shirley Park after the half term. Eldest Taylor, 17 who is at sixth form also lost both his suits and shoes in the blaze. If you can help Chrissie with the uniform crisis click here
These series of images show the extent of the damage at the Knayston Crescent three bedroom house owned by a housing association with blackened walls and smoke damage throughout.
The younger children were asleep when the fire broke out downstairs but escaped before two fire engines and around ten firefighters arrived at the scene at 9.53pm on May 27. They had the blaze under control by 10.31pm but by then 80 per cent of the house was damaged and inhabitable.
Only the cat Lilo who was still in the living room when the fire broke out had to be rescued by firefighters who wearing breathing apparatus entered the house to find her.
Chrissie said: “Housing said they would allocate me money for essential for school uniforms or clothes and a food allowance but then I was told just to go to a food bank on Sunday and there was no contingency fund.
“I have been given some donations of some secondhand clothes but we are just making ends meet, really. I just want them to be able go back to school and have some normality”
Neighbours have been rallying round to support the family who have lived in Thornton Heath since 2009 providing clothes and essentials, but they are going to need help for a long while to come to replace everything.
The community has set up a JustGiving crowdfunding appeal which has so far raised almost £1,000 to help the Key family to cover fares to travel to and from the children’s schools and appointments. If you want to donate click here
The family have been rehoused in a small flat in south Croydon by Croydon Council which while it is furnished only has one double bedroom, two singles, and a pull out bed which means the two girls, Shaniya and Naiyah are having to sleep on the floor.
Chrissie suffers with mental health issues and her two-year-old daughter Khadijah, has a form of dwarfism. They have a support worker who comes in and helps every day. They have medical priority and are on the housing waiting list to move to a larger property.
Chrissie said: “It is overcrowded here and we are getting on top of each other, the kids are getting stressed out and they are already traumatised. My daughter is drawing pictures and stories of the fire. She’s only six and when it comes to 9 o’clock at night she knows it is getting dark and that’s when the fire started and she wakes up and she can see fire but can’t get out.
“I have spoken to their teacher at Ecclesbourne and they have said they will get support for her. The school has been great and has a really supportive network.”
Chrissie spoke about the night the fire broke out: “I was upstairs in the bathroom and I smelt smoke. I went halfway down the stairs and could see there’s a fire. So we’re trying to contain it but it just spread so quickly and fast. My first priority was to just get the children and the family out and then to get the neighbours next door out. It was spreading pretty quick and the fumes were really, really bad, so I was worried about making everyone safe.”
Fire investigators have said the cause of the fire was an unattended tea light candle which ignited kitchen items when it was left on a worktop.
Chrissie says she had lit a candle downstairs but explains: “ Where the fire was, wasn’t where the candle was, that doesn’t add up to what the Fire Brigade actually say. I have a question mark on the initial start of the fire. I will be querying that. I haven’t got to that stage yet but I will be.”
The Fire Brigade also said the house had no working smoke alarms. Chrissie said smoke detectors had not been installed by the landlord.
Chrissie said she had recently had to buy a new cooker because the heating element on the old cooker kept blowing. The new cooker was on a payment plan, and despite having insurance for the five-week-old kitchen appliance along with a washing machine and tumble dryer she was told that fire damage wasn’t covered.
She expressed her gratitude to those who are fundraising for her family adding: “This is the only way that we can move forward to regain some of what we’ve lost so that we can get some stability when we move into some more permanent accommodation.”
A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “Candles, incense sticks and oil burners are one of the most common causes of fire. It’s really important that you never leave them unattended and keep them away from anything that could catch fire such as curtains, furniture or clothes.
“These items should always be held firmly in heat-resistant holders and placed on a stable surface where they won’t be knocked over, and make sure you put them out entirely when you leave the room and especially before bed.
“There were also no working smoke alarms in the property, so this is also a timely reminder to make sure you smoke alarms fitted in your home.
“Having working smoke alarms is so important in helping to detect fires and save lives. They can provide time to escape.
“As a minimum you should have smoke alarms on every floor – in the hallways and the rooms you use the most, plus a heat alarm in the kitchen. They should be tested regularly.”
*Chrissie pictured with her daughters in happier times.