Insurance battle for arson victim

Bungalow damaged by a fire in Chapel Garden, Benwick overnight. Nearby homes were also evacuated.
Bungalow damaged by a fire in Chapel Garden, Benwick overnight. Nearby homes were also evacuated.

A Fenland woman has told the Citizen how she escaped her burning home with just minutes to spare and is now faced with the tough situation of having no insurance.

Debbie Scott (54) fell victim to an arson attack in her Roddons bungalow on Thursday, August 15, but was in the process of organising contents insurance which meant she was not covered when the fire happened.

Debbie said she was expecting a phone call from the insurance company to sort it out on the day of the fire but it never came, so she is trying to fight for cover but does not know whether she will win.

Roddons managing director Jenny Hodson said: “We are talking directly with Miss Scott and the insurer regarding her enquiry about the terms of the insurance policy. We will continue to co-operate with the police in their ongoing investigation into the fire.”

Debbie initially had no idea the Benwick bungalow was on fire and got herself and her dogs out of the house just in time.

“The flames were licking at the roof of the bungalow and we were still in there,” Debbie said. “I kept going into the back garden because I could smell smoke and the third time I peeked around the corner and saw the fire. When I opened the front door, I couldn’t even see to the front gate because the smoke was so thick.”

The fire started in a garden shed at the side of the house and then spread to the roof and a neighbour’s fence. A group of people had gathered outside, unaware that Debbie was inside and oblivious to the fire.

“I’m lucky we managed to get out. I went into the utility to get the dog leads and about a minute and a half later, the door went.”

She thanked everyone who came out to help and said she was overwhelmed by the support shown by Benwick villagers. Special thanks went to Paul Barnes, who helped with her two dogs.

“The people in Benwick are lovely,” Debbie said. “They were absolutely wonderful. The neighbours all came out to see if they could help and they don’t know me from anyone. I’ve only lived there since May.”

The fire did not just affect Debbie. Her dogs, one of which is 16 years old, were stressed by the incident and she heard that a kitten found in a neighbour’s garden later died from smoke inhalation.

Roddons tenant Debbie has now been rehoused temporarily in Walsoken but has very little in the way of belongings as most were destroyed in the bungalow.

The ceiling in her bedroom collapsed on the night of the fire and the living room ceiling collapsed later. Furniture was not salvageable and she does not know whether her clothes will be all right.

“I was allowed back in quickly the next morning to get some things, but I wasn’t thinking. I just grabbed a couple of T-shirts, some trousers and my laptop. Then when I turned the laptop on, it wouldn’t work. I haven’t even got a kettle. If I could get back into the bungalow I could get a mug, a spoon.”

Debbie’s problems are compounded by a delay in her benefits so she has no money to replace the items she needs.

A group of people have got together to try and help Debbie and are collecting Argos vouchers which will be given to her. If you would like to donate anything, they can be bought into the Citizen office and they will be passed on.

• A 15-year-old boy from the March area was arrested on suspicion of arson with the intent to endanger life on the night of the incident and has been bailed until September 19. Call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800-555111.