Family’s terror as they flee Harrogate house fire

Maria Miller with daughter Abigail. (S)
Maria Miller with daughter Abigail. (S)

A mum has spoken of her terror after she and her daughter escaped a devastating house fire which ripped through their home late on Sunday night.

Firefighters told Maria Miller and her daughter Abigail, seven, they were lucky to escape the blaze which took hold in their Regent’s Avenue home shortly after 11pm.

The inside of the fire dmaged house on Regent's Avenue. (S)

The inside of the fire dmaged house on Regent's Avenue. (S)

The entire upstairs of the terraced house was completely destroyed in the flames, with the family losing everything left inside as they were forced to flee.

Now, after being inundated with offers of support, the single mum, 32, has spoken of her gratitude to those who have come forward to help.

“I’m overwhelmed,” she said. “So many people have been kind. It makes you realise how lucky we are to have a community like this in Harrogate.”

The fire started just after 11pm on Sunday night.

Maria Miller

People I’ve never met before have come forward to help. It makes you realise how lucky we are to have a community like that in Harrogate.

Maria had been reading in bed by candlelight when she’d heard her young daughter coughing in the next room. She went downstairs to get her a glass of water. She says she can only imagine that her dressing gown, hanging on the back of her door, had brushed against the lit candle as she opened the door.

“I didn’t see anything - there was no smoke, no fire,” she said. “I was sitting on my daughter’s bed and she said she could a funny sound - almost a ‘swooshing’.

“Then a piece of red fabric just floated down through the door.”

Running through to the hall, Maria was pushed back by the force of the flames which had engulfed her own bedroom.

“It happened that quickly,” she said. “The flames were billowing out. I just grabbed Abi and ran straight outside. I just scooped her up and ran down the street.

“She was shouting, she could see I was scared. And we could see the smoke coming out of the window.

“Then there was a huge bang, as the windows just exploded out.”

In shock, Maria and her daughter stood in the street and watched as their home was destroyed.

Firefighters were on the scene within minutes, and a kind neighbour, who she had never spoken to before, invited them into their home for a hot drink and to get warm.

“I was just in shock, I couldn’t speak,” she said. “The firemen were so wonderful, they were brilliant and really concerned that I had somewhere to stay.

“Abi, who’s only seven, was the greatest help. She was reassuring me - and saying Fireman Sam was here to help. I’m so proud of her.”

COMMUNITY RALLIES IN SUPPORT

A community effort to help the family whose belongings were destroyed in Sunday’s fire has seen overwhelming support in recent days.

Maria and her daughter Abigail, who is a pupil at Grove Road School, lost everything in the upstairs of their home in the blaze.

Clothes, toys, pictures - everything is gone. The upstairs walls have been left blackened, and all furniture has had to be destroyed. But within hours of hearing about the fire, a friend, Maisie Martini, set up a Facebook group to collect some essentials for the family.

Others, on Harrogate website Grumbler, started collecting after a neighbour saw the fire. The Stonebeck Pub, where Maria sometimes performs with a group of can-can dancers, has started a collection to buy her new outfits. And a charity based in Ripon, the Joshua Project, started putting together parcels to help.

“We put a message up on our Facebook page asking for donations of clothes and bedding, and got a massive response,” said organiser Laura Brown, who set up the charity locally. “It really surprised me - but people just wanted to do what they can.”

Maria, a self-employed tattoo artist, had been renting the property and has no contents insurance for the belongings which were lost. She says she has been overwhelmed by the support.

“So many people have been amazing, they’ve been really kind,” she said. “People have been donating bedding, food, one lady from Spain even sent £20!

“A lady who lives down the street turned up with some bin bags and some cleaning materials and said ‘I’m here to help’. Everybody has been wonderful. People I’ve never met before have come forward to help. It makes you realise how lucky we are to have a community like that in Harrogate.

“It’s so overwhelming.”