A Linslade couple whose home was ravaged by fire just days before the birth of their baby boy have given their heartfelt thanks after receiving reams of support from the community.
Tamsyn Reilly, 37, and her partner Lee Middleton, 41, were left without a home after the blaze tore through their house at Finch Crescent on January 18.
Besides ruining months of decoration in preparation for the new baby, the stress of the incident gave added worry for Tamsyn and Lee – who lost their first baby Lily at full-term in 2009.
Baby Jacob was born safe and sound on January 27 and mother and baby are thriving at their temporary home in Eaton Bray.
Tamsyn said: “I really don’t know what to say, we’re just so overwhelmed by everyone’s kindness, it’s been phenomenal.
“I tried to write thank you notes to everyone but I can’t keep up! We’re still getting donations now and we can’t believe it. I’ve got two sterilisers, one of which I’ll give to the L&D.”
Alongside essentials, boxes of donations in storage, and over £1,900 raised on Justgiving, the couple were touched by the gifts to five-year-old son Jack, who lost all of his toys in the fire.
Tamsyn said: “One boy actually donated his PlayStation. It made such a difference to us in those first few days in a hotel, having a PlayStation and toys just gave Jack some sense of normality.”
”It was the one thing that really choked me up,” added dad Lee. “Seeing his bedroom that we’d worked so hard on, all blackened out. I’m glad he’s never had to see it.”
Tamsyn was resting at home after a bad night on the morning of January 18, while handyman Lee had taken Jack to Greenleas Lower School.
“I heard a beep that sounded like a smoke alarm but it stopped after about five seconds,” said Tamsyn. “I was so tired, I fell asleep again but then a few minutes later I heard a bit of scuttling outside our door and it was our Staffy dog Piggy.
“If it wasn’t for Piggy, I wouldn’t have got up and I’d probably have inhaled a lot more smoke. She persisted in scratching and she pushed the door open. I rolled on to my side and I could see this orange glow in the doorway. It looked like a sunset and there seemed to be strange things floating in the air.
“Even at that point, I don’t think my brain had figured out there was a fire. I got up and as I was going down the stairs, I could feel the heat and the crackle of fire... and then there was the realisation that the whole of the living room was competely ablaze. The heat really hit me and I started coughing.
“I opened the front door and just shouted out, ‘fire’.”
Tamsyn ran back into the house to get her pet cat and dog, as well as her mobile phone to call emergency services. She then phoned Lee.
Lee said: “I jumped in the car, it was like the Dukes of Hazard! I apologise to anyone on the road that day who saw an erratic man driving like he was the emergency services!
“I was panicking and desperate to get through the traffic. You don’t know what to expect, I screeched the car up on to the kerb and ran in there.”
Inside, Lee began tackling the blaze himself and grabbed the biggest sheet he could find in a bid to stop the spread of the flames. Beds Fire and Rescue Service arrived to extinguish the fire , which left the house 25% damaged by fire and 100% destroyed by smoke. An overheated halogen lamp was believed to have been the cause.
After being given inhalers for smoke inhalation at the scene, Tamsyn was taken to hospital for further checks. She then went to pick up son Jack from school.
She said: “I remember thinking, ‘I’ve got to keep things normal’. I explained what had happened to the staff at reception. I showed them his school project which was all charred and I asked if they could photocopy it, just so he had something to hand in. I was still in a bit of a daze but this seemed very important!
“At first, I told Jack that there had been some problems with decorating and we were going to a hotel. We later sat down and told him there was a fire, as it was only a matter of time before somebody mentioned it.
“It’s amazing how resilient children are. I’d like to give a big shout out to my son, he’s dealt with so much and he’s really embraced being an older brother.”
Tamsyn and Lee would like to thank all friends, family and wellwishers, with particular thanks to Rebecca Waring-Cooper for setting up the Justgiving page, as well as Tamsyn’s mum Debbie Nicholls for her continued support.