The family left homeless when fire tore through their house in Hanham last month have spoken about their devastation – and their grateful thanks to everyone who has rallied round to help them.
Tara and Mark Savage, their six-year-old daughter Leya, and Tara’s other children Corey and Courtney Male, are currently staying in emergency accommodation in Speedwell.
The fire was the second tragedy to rock the family. Almost five years ago Tara and Mark’s 11-week-old daughter, Lara, died suddenly.
Things had been tough for the family in the run-up to the fire at their Wilshire Avenue home on 8th September in which they lost virtually everything.
Financial problems were the reason that they had not kept up insurance payments. Mark is a taxi driver by trade but his car has been off the road for some time as he did not have the money to fix it.
But the support of the community in the wake of the fire has touched them. Friends and family are looking after their four dogs and seven chickens, and clothes have been donated. A collection was held for them at the nearby Church of the Ascension, which is where they were married, Hanham Methodist Church has given them some supermarket vouchers and the Salvation Army has arranged food packages.
Both 15-year-old Corey and 14-year-old Courtney are pupils at Hanham High where a non-uniform day held last Friday raised money for the family. And at Samuel White Infant School, where Leya is a pupil, there will be a non-uniform day on 11th October to raise money for the family. Pupils at Hanham Abbots Junior School will also be taking part in the fundraising event.
This week Tara told how on the night of the fire she was working a shift at Warmley House Care Home when she got a call from Corey, telling her he was in his bedroom and the house was on fire.
She urged him to get out but when he opened his bedroom door the heat knocked him back. He dropped the phone and Tara in a “sheer panic” tore home on her moped. She got there to find Corey, Mark and Leya had all managed to escape. Fortunately Courtney had been staying overnight with her grandparents in Willsbridge.
Mark had been roused from his sleep on the couch downstairs by Leya who it is believed was woken by the heat. The pair of them then got out through the conservatory at the back but the heat was too intense for Mark to go back in for Corey.
Corey had kept his head though and put a pillow in front of his face to try to block out the smoke. He said the heat in his room was so intense that the blinds at the window were melting in front of him. He used a golf club in his room to smash the glass and jumped to waiting neighbours below who tried to break his fall.
Corey spent ten days in Frenchay, including spells in the intensive care and high dependency units, after suffering smoke inhalation. He needed an operation on his foot and ankle which he broke during the fall. His arm was already in plaster after he broke it falling off his scooter.
And in another twist of bad luck since the fire, Courtney is also in a cast after cracking bones in her ankle and foot after tripping on some steps while on a recent weekend away paid for by Hanham Baptist Church.
Fire investigators, who were called to the blaze about 6.45am, have said that the cause of the blaze was a candle but the couple are adamant that although there had been a candle burning on top of the fridge, it had nearly burnt out before Tara left at 8pm the night before to begin her shift at the care home.
The family have been inundated with clothes and other items, including furniture, since their home was destroyed but have very little storage in the two-bedroom bungalow that they have been allocated for now in Speedwell.
The family link officer at Samuel White Infant School is coordinating items for the family who are having to turn down some donations because they have nowhere to keep them. Anyone with a garage or lock-up that the family could use to get in touch is asked to contact Louise Hennys at the school.
Meanwhile Tara, who is hoping to get some help from the Citizens Advice Bureau this week, hopes to return to her job soon. She said: “We can only take things one day at a time.”