I lost my home to a fire - but I'm just glad my little boy and I are alive
PUBLISHED: 11:59 31 July 2018 | UPDATED: 11:59 31 July 2018
When Hollie Meehan went out with her four-year-old son one afternoon, little did she ever imagine that she would return to find their beloved home on fire.
Yet although she has lost her home, most of her possessions and been forced to live in a caravan, she is just grateful for the small box of priceless momentoes she was able to save - and the fact she and her boy are still alive.
Had the pair been inside when the fire struck, Miss Meehan believes they might not be alive to tell the tale.
The blaze at Miss Meehan’s home in Coronation Drive, Felixstowe at around 3.30pm on July 9 - thought to be caused by a broken wire - began underneath the bed where she usually sleeps.
She has been able to salvage little from the wreckage, which caused fire damage upstairs as well as smoke and water damage downstairs.
It damaged most of her furniture and electrical items beyond repair, including her son’s toys - and will mean things like the bathroom and electrics will need to be replaced.
“I went out with my little boy and I got a phonecall to say my house was on fire,” she said.
“My house was fine when I left it but 10mins later, when I was driving back, I saw smoke coming out. That’s when I got a phonecall from my neighbour.
“If it had happened at night-time, when we were in bed, I wouldn’t be speaking to you now.”
She rushed back but could only helplessly stand and watch as fire crews from Ipswich East, Princes Street and Felixstowe fire stations tackled the 10m x 10m blaze.
She managed to save the odd piece of furniture and, fortunately, a keepsake box of photos of her son, Tien Meehan-Smith, from when he was born.
Yet despite seeing her house - which she rented through Flagship Homes - severely damaged, Miss Meehan is philosophic about what happened.
“In one breath I get really upset about it, because that was my first home which I moved into when I was 19,” she said.
“I was really young when I moved in and I’ve grown up in that house.
“It makes my teary - but then in another breath I’m really glad I have that one box of stuff. You can’t replace that.
“If you sat there and thought about the what-ifs, you’d never function.
“You have to function, because it is just me and my little boy. I’ve got to be there for him.”
Felixstowe community rallies round
One of the biggest concerns Miss Meehan had after the fire was the fact their pet dog Candy, aged six, was missing in the aftermath of the fire.
Neighbours had burst into the property after the fire in to try to find Candy and puppy Red.
However Candy bolted out of the back door in a bid to rush to safety.
That was when neighbours began to rally round to help a single mother at her time of greatest need.
Within no time, nearly 300 people in the town had joined the search for the canine - and, to the family’s relief, found her six hours later.
But the help did not stop there, as an appeal by the community gathered tonnes of clothes and furniture.
It was enough to fill a whole storage lock up unit and will help the family to get back on their feet when Miss Meehan and her son are given a permanent new home.
“I know it is a bad situation but you forget how much of a community we have,” Miss Meehan-Smith said.
“When something really bad happened, you saw the whole of Felixstowe rallying round to make sure one little family was okay.
“They didn’t have to do that.”
What does the future hold for a family who lost their home to a fire?
Life has proved challenging since the fire, with Miss Meehan forced to live in a caravan while Flagship workers search for a permanent new home.
It has been particularly difficult for Tien, who is staying with relatives in Felixstowe.
“Kids are pretty resilient but he’s just lost his house,” she said.
“He’s only four and he says he wants to go home. He doesn’t understand what’s happened. We are just trying to get some routine.
“In a caravan is not the best place to be, particularly in a heatwave.
“I feel like the past two weeks have been like an episode of EastEnders.
“Hopefully I’ll find a new house - we’ve got to try and have some normality.
“I just want to thank people for everything they’ve done. I don’t know how to say thank you properly.”