Family devastated as fire guts their home and destroys contents - including Christmas presents
With no home insurance – a crowdfunding appeal has been created to help them get back on their feet.
Dad-of-two Graham Nicholls was having a nap at his home in Park Avenue, Sutterton, at around 3.30pm when one of his teenage sons alerted him to a fire upstairs.
"My youngest, Santino, had just come back from the shop and went upstairs to Kian’s room and saw his vape charger was on fire,” explained Graham, 41. "He quickly shouted for us, and we tried to put it out.”
The flames spread with such ferocity that Graham told his boys Santino, 15, and Kian, 19, to escape with their pet dog – while he stayed inside to fight the flames.
“I tried to fight it as much as I could – but it was just black and I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see,” he said. “I could just see the faint glow from the flames. Eventually it got too much and I had to get out.”
Three fire crews rushed to the scene to tackle the blaze, which was just spreading to the roof space.
Firefighters administered oxygen to Graham on site, and he was taken by ambulance to Pilgrim Hospital with suspected smoke inhalation, but later discharged.
"The fire brigade were there pretty quickly, but I think another two or three minutes and the house would have been completely gone,” he said.
“Everything upstairs has gone – we’ve got to replace everything."
Mum Giuseppina was out with a friend at the time of the fire on Sunday, but returned home to a scene of devastation.
"That was the only time I had a little cry,” said Graham. “I told her I was sorry I couldn’t put it out.”
The blaze destroyed Kian’s bedroom, and caused severe damage to much of the upstairs and its contents. Flames even reached the roof joists.
Without home insurance, which the family say they forgot to renew, they are now facing an uphill battle to get back on their feet.
But self-employed groundworker Graham remains positive: “We have already started stripping things back and clearing everything out,” he said.
“The good thing about all this is the support we have been shown by family and friends. We have a little group together here helping us to fix our home – which is springing us back into life.”
The family have relatives nearby who have put up them up while the house is repaired – but the severity of the blaze means they can’t spend Christmas together at their home.
Graham added: "Myself, my wife and my youngest are staying with my sister Charlotte, but as space is tight, my eldest and our dog are staying at my other sister Mary’s – so we are split up.”
His sister Becky Nuttell was on scene to witness the unfolding disaster after receiving a phone call about the fire which she described as “gut-wrenching”.
She told us: “I was terrified for him, he’s my big brother, my hero, and it was awful to see him on oxygen.”
Becky has now set up a GoFundMe page to help her brother and his family – which has so far attracted donations of £2,700.
She writes: “The entire upstairs is completely destroyed, ceilings fallen down, everything is burnt rubble. Downstairs is black, smoke damage and water damage - their home is condemned, clothes, belongings, valuables, Christmas presents gone! All this a week before Christmas.”
The family are now warning others to be careful not to leave vape chargers on when not in use.
"All this is down to a vape charger,” Becky adds. “So please remember to turn your sockets off!”
Speaking to Lincolnshire World, Dan Moss, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue’s area manager for prevention and protection, offered the following advice to all residents: “Be really careful when you’re charging any electronic device – and keep them nearby when they’re plugged in. We don’t recommend charging anything overnight or when you are out of the house because of the risk of overheating. Where electronic devices are the cause of a fire we will often work with Trading Standards to see if any further action is needed on product safety. And of course, working smoke alarms save lives – make sure yours are working and regularly tested.”
If you can support the family, visit the GoFundMe page.