‘We’ve lost everything in the heatwave fires’

Aid appeal after council worker’s home burns down

Friday, 29th July — By Harry Taylor

Mark Porter fire house

The fire wrecked Mr Porter’s home and his cars

A WORKER at Islington Council says his family has lost everything after fires caused by the intense heatwave last week burnt down his home, as colleagues have begun raising money to get them back on their feet.

Among the items Mark Porter fears destroyed by the fire in Beam Parklands, in Dagenham, is his wedding ring after wildfires destroyed 14 homes and 25 vehicles. He has been married to his wife Tara for 18 years.

He had returned home from his job on the communal services repairs team at lunchtime on Tuesday, July 19, to find his house, where he lives with his wife and two children, destroyed. Mr Porter’s two cars were also wrecked.

Earlier in the day his wife had been told by police to evacuate their home, but when the 49-year-old got back to his street, he was held at a police cordon and told it was unsafe to go any further. His son sent him a picture from news coverage that showed his house had been destroyed.

He said: “The police weren’t able to give us any information. It was just crazy seeing that picture, I broke down. It’s really crazy. I just couldn’t believe it.”

A day later, the London Fire Brigade and the Met lifted the cordon for people to go to their homes, but they weren’t allowed in because of safety concerns. Those affected are currently staying in hotels while they liaise with insurance companies to try and get a more permanent residence. Mr Porter, his wife Tara, their 19-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter have been told work may take up to a year.

Mr Porter said: “Everything is just destroyed. There’s lots of sentimental things. Photographs of my kids doing karate, trophies, all my jewellery.

Shocking damage to Mr Porter’s home after the blaze

“My wedding ring has been lost. A couple of days ago I took it off because it had been a bit tight and it had been pinching me. I was going to take it into work to get it expanded and loosened. All those memories, it has gone.

“All we have is the clothes I wore to work that morning, and my wife and kids just have the clothes they own.”

He added: “It’s like it’s not real. It’s like something from a movie, there’s no words to describe it.”

The family have lived in Dagenham for nearly 15 years, moving in 2008 when Mr Porter had already been working at the council for two years.

However, just as things have gone wrong for the Porter family, the dad-of-two’s friends and colleagues at work have begun trying to raise money to help support them.

His friend and supervisor Peter Rowe had spoken to colleagues and set an initial target of £2,500 for donations.

This was passed on Thursday (yesterday) and they will continue to collect money to support the family.

Mr Rowe, who has worked with Mr Porter for seven years, said: “Mark is a friend, first and foremost, I was talking to a couple of the people in the team and going ‘what can we do to help’, and thought of this, because he knows what he needs the most, but we wanted to show that we are thinking of him.

“He’s a great guy, but we would do this for anyone in the team at the council. We come together as a team and look out for each other as much as we can.”

Mr Porter, who arrived in the UK from Jamaica in 2000, said the offer was “uplifting” and added: “The fact they are doing this feels humbling and it feels great. It means so much to us as a family.”

The fires were caused by record-breaking temperatures, which are thought to becoming more common as climate change gathers pace, bringing hotter and dryer summers. The Met Office has said that England is having its driest July in 111 years, with a quarter of its usual rainfall.

Mr Porter said that losing his house and possessions in the fire had made him more conscious of its problems. “I’m definitely more aware of it now. Before I didn’t so much. I didn’t worry about it so much, I didn’t think these things would happen to me. But there was nothing we could have done, it wasn’t the case of anything we had done, it just spread from house to house.”

If you’d like to contribute: https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-porter-family-home-fire-recovery-fund

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