Family left homeless with no belongings after huge fire tears through home

A family has become homeless after a fire ripped through their house of 10 years and left them with almost nothing more than the clothes on their back.

Video footage shows the huge blaze tearing through a bungalow in Havering, east London, on Wednesday night, which took 25 firefighters and four engines hours to get under control. Mum Jenny and her children, Olu and seven-year-old Somto, escaped unharmed but, in just 15 minutes, the family lost everything.

Student Olu, 20, said the single-parent family, which had recently been forced to rely on food banks, have ‘gone from struggling day to day’ to ‘not knowing where we’ll be sleeping the next night’. She has launched a GoFundMe in a bid to get the family back on their feet and hopefully fix their home, which has been deemed ‘unliveable’ by the fire service.

Olu told Metro.co.uk: ‘We have lived there 10 years last month and it doesn’t even look like our home anymore. It’s so shocking. In almost every single room, every part of the ceiling has come off. Anything the fire didn’t get, the smoke got, and anything the smoke didn’t get, the water did.’

‘We haven’t been able to recover any pictures, or documents, or anything. We have to start fresh.’

London Fire Brigade Investigators said the family – who are currently separated and couch surfing with different friends – had a ‘lucky escape’ and believe the fire was caused by work which had been carried out on the roof.

They are yet to release a report into the incident, meaning mental health nurse Jenny, who owns the home, doesn’t yet know if they can claim any insurance money.

Olu said she was enjoying a night in watching TV when she realised something was wrong. At around 8.30pm, she heard a ‘click’ and the television screen turned off.

She said there have been power cuts in the area recently and thought nothing of it. But when she noticed a light switched on in another room, she went to check on her mum.



Olu said: ‘As I’m walking through the hallway, I hear what I believe to be footsteps in the attic… so, I was thinking has someone broken in from the roof?

‘I go to talk to my mum, she’s on the phone, and she doesn’t believe me. But through the slit in the trap door, I could see a light and shadows and I said: “Someone’s in the attic call the police”.’

Olu ran to grab her phone and dialled 999. Just as the operator asked which service she required, her mum grabbed a stick and opened a trap door to the attic.

‘A massive flame jumped down onto her and I just started screaming “fire! Fire!” I shouted to get my mum and little brother out the room and we ran,’ said Olu.

‘We go outside and we can see the thickest, black smoke coming from the attic and I just start screaming and crying.’



Her terrified little brother Somto, who turned seven last month, was ‘distraught’ watching the house burn down, she said.

The family later discovered that a neighbour spotted the flames on the roof and called the fire brigade around 10 minutes before they realised something was wrong.

‘We had no idea there was a fire inside the house, we were just sitting there,’ she said. ‘You couldn’t smell it – the fire alarm wasn’t going off, nothing.’

Although the fire alarm is on the door of the attic, it never went off. The family said it was working because two days earlier it had set off while Jenny was cooking. 

The student said the last few days have been the ‘worst of her life’, which came after an already traumatic year for the struggling family. 


Olu lost her grandmother and aunt within a month of each other, while Jenny, 60, has put ‘everything’ into divorcing an abusive partner. The family have since had to rely on food banks and help from others to get by.

And the pandemic has brought its own set of challenges – particularly for Jenny who is considered high-risk as she is diabetic. The nurse has been scared after losing a friend to the virus, who was a doctor and also diabetic.

‘[Mum] has put her life into that house, living in it and putting all her money into trying to make it better,’ said Olu. ‘She wants to fix it because it means everything to her. We’ve gone through so much living there – it’s all we have.’

Olu, who is studying digital marketing at the University of Portsmouth, is not sure if she can go return to her studies in October as she may have to get a job instead to help at home.

She said the family are determined to keep fighting and thanked everyone who has helped or donated to the fundraiser.

Olu added: ‘Obviously corona has completely made this year disgraceful for everyone and we’re going into recession, but if anyone is able to help financially – or just with kind words – it means everything to us and we’re so grateful for anything that anyone does. 

‘No one needs to help us, everyone made a choice to, and that means a lot to us.’

London Fire Brigade’s station officer Gary Collins, said in a statement: ‘The property was undergoing major refurbishment and hot works had been carried out on the roof.

‘Building works like welding, cutting or grinding create a lot of heat and sparks. Within a number of hours, the roof had caught alight and flames spread quickly.’

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