Fire wrecks roof – but crews are thanked for saving Cuddles the guinea pig

Firefighters tackled blaze in Elaine Grove

Thursday, 2nd June — By Harry Taylor

Elaine Grove fire 3

Firefighters tackle the blaze in Elaine Grove

A FAMILY in Gospel Oak have praised their neighbours and the London Fire Brigade after a blaze destroyed their roof, and thanked crews for saving a beloved pet guinea pig.

Richard Atkins watched from safety but in shock as the fire spread at his home in Elaine Grove on Saturday afternoon.

The roof of the master bedroom, bathroom and their eight-year-old daughter Poppy’s bedroom was damaged. Mr Atkins had been out cycling with Poppy when the fire began.

“We went past the end of the road towards the Heath I noticed this plume of smoke that was going up the road,” he said. “At first I thought it was next door. We just wheeled over and I told her to stay where she was. I put my hand on the door and it was cold.

Richard, Patricia, Poppy, Heath and Cuddles

“I went inside and couldn’t see anything. It was only when I went back outside and a neighbour pointed out the smoke was coming from my roof that I realised that it was ours.”

The family were having some roofing work done to their home with workers leaving earlier that day.

The fire brigade arrived at the scene as the fire started to rage in the roof. “We had this guy in charge, clearly very stressful situation, but we had to ask him ‘excuse me, can you make sure our guinea pig is OK?’,” said Mr Atkins.

Three-year-old Cuddles was stowed away in the garden and officers were able to get him safely back with the family. “He’s a member of the family,” said Mrs Atkins.

As she cradled Cuddles in the kitchen of their house on Tuesday afternoon, Poppy explained to the New Journal how she also got to sit inside one of the fire brigade’s four engines.

“They were all great with the kids. They even went in and got Poppy’s teddies in a bag and took them out to save them,” Mrs Atkins added.

Damage to the roof of the house

She had been at Hackney reservoir with their son Heath when she got a call from her husband. “He said something about there being a hole, I thought it was just something had gone wrong with the builders and they’d made a hole in the roof,” she said.

When she arrived, neighbours in Elaine Grove took in the children to watch cartoons while firefighters got to work. Mrs Atkins, a HR manager, was worrying about sentimental belongings, including the order of service from the funeral of her mother Mary Rimington, the former deputy principal of City and Islington College.

Memory boxes with items from Poppy and Heath’s childhoods, and her wedding dress were also saved from damage.

“They were excellent and did manage to get most of it out,” she said. “I asked them and they were able to get my jewellery boxes out, and they were across the other side of the room on top of a bedside table. They have got lots of sentimental items in there, and they’re important to me.”

She added: “With clothes and furniture, you can replace it. The more sentimental items you can’t. “There wasn’t much we could do. We just had to stand and watch while our neighbours made us cups of tea.”

The family are now staying at the Holiday Inn in Camden Town while they work with their home insurer and loss adjusters to find the extent of the damage and costs.

They are trying to find a three-bedroom house for them to stay in when work begins, and one that will most importantly of all, accept Cuddles.

“It still doesn’t feel real,” said Mr Atkins, a data manager. “It’s been difficult sleeping, especially the first two nights. At the moment we’ve not had time to take it all in.”

Mrs Atkins added: “We’re just so grateful to the neighbours and the fire brigade. There’s a street party at the weekend for the jubilee and we’ll be back for that to thank everyone.”

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