Search

‘It was just horrific’: Mother relives night fire destroyed family’s Forest Gate home

PUBLISHED: 07:00 09 October 2020

A neighbour helped Andrew to board up the house after the blaze. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth family

A neighbour helped Andrew to board up the house after the blaze. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth family

Archant

A mother has relived the night a fire destroyed their home.

L-R: Teila, Fabian, 11, Verity, 14, and Andrew. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth FamilyL-R: Teila, Fabian, 11, Verity, 14, and Andrew. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth Family

Teila Firth was woken by her husband Andrew yelling, “Get out, get out”, in the early hours and an alarm which sounded like a lorry reversing outside their house in Windsor Road, Forest Gate.

Teila threw open the bedroom door to see the landing filling with smoke.

The fire is believed to have started downstairs and quickly spread. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth familyThe fire is believed to have started downstairs and quickly spread. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth family

She grabbed her 11-year-old son, Fabian, and shouted to daughter, Verity, to get out, as plumes billowed around them.

But they were trapped upstairs and struggling to breathe.

The fire gutted the house. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth familyThe fire gutted the house. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth family

Verity rushed to her bedroom, screaming for help from a window, while Teila and Fabian thrust their heads through a landing window, gasping for air.

“It was just horrific,” Teila said.

About 60 firefighters tackled the blaze in Windsor Road, Forest Gate. Picture: LFBAbout 60 firefighters tackled the blaze in Windsor Road, Forest Gate. Picture: LFB

As Andrew hosed the front door in a bid to secure an escape route for his family, Teila spotted a way out, dashing outside with Fabian, calling to her daughter.

Andrew ran into his burning home, grabbed Verity before running barefoot over glass shards from shattered windows exploding in the heat.

Abut 60 firefighters tackled the blaze. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth familyAbut 60 firefighters tackled the blaze. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth family

Safe outside, the family looked on as firefighters battled the blaze on September 18. The cause remains under investigation.

You may also want to watch:

Luckily, the Firth’s two dogs escaped the flames, but the family’s cats, Willow and Cordy, were lost.

“It happened so quickly,” Teila said. “The heat and sound of things exploding were just awful. The fire brigade were amazing.”

Verity appeared alongside Greg Davies in Channel comedy Man Down. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth FamilyVerity appeared alongside Greg Davies in Channel comedy Man Down. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth Family

She added that Verity, a Brit School pupil who has appeared on stage and in shows including Channel 4’s Man Down, was “phenomenal”. The 14-year-old had called 999.

On the street with nothing, neighbours rallied round, providing clothes, toiletries and food.

The house was completely gutted by the fire. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth FamilyThe house was completely gutted by the fire. Picture: Courtesy of the Firth Family

“They were amazing. There’s a story of community and humanity in this. The love you feel makes you realise nothing else matters,” Teila said.

A day after the fire Teila discovered that, while preoccupied with coping with the pandemic and the death of Andrew’s father, the couple’s house insurance had lapsed.

“So much was going on,” Teila said.

Things got worse when Andrew was admitted to hospital with heart trouble. He is now recovering.

A GoFundMe page has been launched to support the family who are now staying with friends.

On the future, Teila said: “It’s pretty scary. Where do we go from here with no money and nowhere to live?”

She urged people not to leave anything on charge overnight, instal alarms, extinguishers and know what to do in a fire.


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Newham Recorder. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Newham Recorder