'Life is hanging by a thread' says flat fire victim after losing all possessions
PUBLISHED: 20:47 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 20:52 16 January 2019
A Colchester man has described the "unimaginable damage" to his home after returning from a tropical holiday to the scene of a devastating flat fire.
Lee Courtney had flown from the Philippines on January 8 and arrived home in Golden Noble Hill to discover it gutted by fire and smoke after a suspected arson attack in his neighbour’s flat.
Firefighters had spent six hours tackling the blazing block of flats in Golden Noble Hill, Colchester, on January 5.
Mr Courtney, 50, said: “The damage is unimaginable - my clothes are smoke damaged, there was a Persian rug in there from my mother that’s ruined, my kitchen counters have melted - almost everything is gone.
“I had just gotten back from a holiday with a friend in the Philippines and had no idea anything had happened until I got to Colchester.
“I pulled up and saw the state of it, went to the back of the building and the whole roof was gone.
“There was a full-on, 1,000-degree fire next to my wall.
“If everyone in that block had all been at home, three or four people could have died - It’s made me realise home much life is hanging by a thread.”
Following the fire, Essex Police arrested a 34-year-old man on suspicion of arson and endangering life.
He was released on bail until January 28.
Mr Courtney’s health and ability to work has been affected by the stress of his circumstances and the neighbours he has spoken to are also struggling to cope with the tragedy of losing their homes.
He added: “It’s like having your right arm chopped off - I’ve lost my home of 13 years.
“It’s really lovely that people have reached into their own pockets to help - I’d love to see however much we can raise split between everyone affected.
“I’m so grateful the council have supported me and managed to move me into a new place.”
The council says it is doing all it can to support the victims of the fire and the community.
Head of housing management at Colchester Borough Homes, Karen Williams, said: “We understand what a difficult time this has been for the families involved and we have offered to put anyone affected by the fire in touch with support or counselling services.
“We are rehousing three households while repairs works are undertaken in their homes.
“A letter has been hand-delivered to all the residents of Attlee Gardens to provide them with an update of what they can expect the next steps to be in the coming weeks.”