Devastated homeowners have described how they’ve ‘lost everything’ after having to flee as an inferno engulfed terraced houses in the heatwave.
A blaze which is believed to have began in dry scrubland in Wennington, east London, engulfed several homes and sparked evacuations of homes as firefighters fought the blaze.
Plumes of thick black smoke were seen from up to ten miles from the scene yesterday as temperatures breached 40C.
Dozens were evacuated to a nearby Premier Inn, grabbing pets and leaving behind medicines, where they desperately waited for news of their loved ones and their homes.
A villager from fire-ravaged Wennington today described how he he fled his home in just the clothes he was wearing.
Tim Stock, 66, who works as the village gravedigger and church warden, managed to escape with his family, two dogs and a tortoise.
He said he managed to get everyone into the church only for that to fill up with smoke.
He said: “I lost everything. The house, the garden, we had two beehives, there was no going back.
“My son took some stuff and went round to his mate’s house but about 10 minutes later that burnt down two/three hundred yards away so he has got nothing either.
“We opened up the church because I have the keys, we got everyone in, people were covered in soot, they were having a drink of water, but then that started filling up with smoke so we had to get everyone out again.
“I’m surprised it didn’t burn down as well to be honest.
“The fire started across the cornfield, at one point I got stuck behind the cordon and the field was burning so I couldn’t get out that way.
“I lost my phone but the locals got me a new one from Tesco.
“I’ve been a gravedigger for 50 years. My truck has blown up, that belonged to the council. I didn’t have time to get it out.
“Last night I stayed in Thurrock Hotel. The council was trying to put us up in people’s houses but we’ve got two dogs and my tortoise Malty.”
He said the “kindness has been heart warming”.
“People are so quick to help, someone called Nancy saw a call for help on a Facebook group and came down in her car and dropped off some clothes and water and drove us around about five miles.
“There were so many names I can’t remember, people have been so kind.”
Alfie Stock, 26, went onto the roof of his parents’ house in an attempt to try and stop the fire spreading but realised the ground beneath him was burning.
He said within minutes the fire had spread.
Speaking to the Metro, he said: “The neighbour’s house was gone, there was nothing that could be done. By the time we phoned the fire brigade they were busy fighting another fire so they were out, they took a fair while to turn up.
“Then when they did there was no water pressure because the water was being used elsewhere, so the first houses, my mum’s house and the neighbour’s, they were gone.”
One elderly woman was seen crying hysterically saying: “Oh my God – the house is gone”, while her family tried to comfort her.
Others were asking council and fire officials about whether their pets had been rescued and if their homes were still standing.
Riminta Maceikaite, 38 and her son Nikas Janulevicius, 13, said their neighbours’ homes were burned down but as far as they can see from TV aerial shots, their house is still standing.
Ms Maceikaite said they were “very anxious” about their home, adding: “When you look on a camera when it shows you from the sky it just freaks you out.”
Nikas said: “Our house is on the news and it’s the only house that hasn’t been burned so far.
Asked if they had seen or spoken to other residents, he said: “I saw my neighbour, he was OK, he was helping to put out the fires.”
The pair were trying to find their pet dog and cat with Ms Maceikaite saying: “The firefighters said if they heard a bark they would potentially break a door and if they’ve been rescued they supposed to have been brought here but in the main hotel they say they don’t know nothing about that.”
Resident Janet Hickey, 70, who has terminal pancreatic cancer, said she was forced to leave all her cancer drugs behind as they were evacuated.
She said: “I’ve got all my cancer drugs in the fridge.”
Her husband Patrick Hickey, 71, added: “We had to leave everything.”
“We’re hoping against hope that our house is still there,” he added.
Mrs Hickey said they are feeling “devastated”, adding: “We’ve been living there 50 years.
“I’m terminally ill so it’s not great to lose all that. I’m also an artist and all my paintings are there.”
Growing tearful she later added that she had spent 50 years building her garden and buying flowers from fairs to plant in it.
A woman fled her burning home with just her photo album, a cat and her dead father’s ashes.
Two of her cats are still missing following the massive fire which she said might have started in a compost bin next door to her.
The story emerged as a friend, who would not give his name, returned to the village to look for her cats.
He said he was looking after two people who had lost their homes.
He said: “I just came down to look for the cats of two friends who are staying at mine in Upminster.
“I heard the scrapyard was looking after pets but I haven’t seen the cats and the police aren’t letting anyone through.
“The fire, it was next door to their house, and she seems to think it came from a compost bin. She said it enveloped the treeline.
“She tried to get her cats out, one jumped out of her hand, the other she got in a box and the other ran off.
“It scratched her hand it was so frightened.
“She was evacuated to the Windmill pub but luckily I’m local so I phoned them up when I heard and they came to stay with me in Upminster.
“They are more concerned about the cats than the rest of it. They’re in shock but there are little bits coming back to them.
“She lost her father last year and she picked up her photo albums on the way out and his ashes.
“Otherwise it’s all gone, everything. They’ve got two vehicles and they are not even letting them go in to get them, a van on The Green and a Porsche outside someone’s house.
“At least if they get them they are mobile.”
Simon Clarke, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has promised that the Government will “step in” to help families hit by major blazes sparked by the extreme heat.
He did not say specifically what help the Government might provide to those without insurance, whose homes or belongings were destroyed.
“The Government will stand by people who need assistance,” he told Sky News.
“The Government will be looking carefully at what we can do to make sure that everyone receives the support they need.
“And obviously, the first thing is to make sure that they have the support in the very immediate term – people may have lost all their belongings, their identity documents.
“I know our local councils will be stepping up to look after people who’ve been affected across the country by fires, but clearly central government stands ready as always to step in as needed.”
Londoners have been urged not to have barbecues on Wednesday despite temperatures dropping, because the grass is still dry and will allow fire to spread rapidly if it catches alight.