Our family-of-5 live in a one-bedroom flat after our home was ravaged by fire – but housing association say it’s fine

Darren Watson and 3 Chridren, Three dogs and Cat forsed to live with Neighbour after fire destroys kitchen., Willingham, Cambridge Friday 02 September 2022. Picture by Terry Harris.

A DAD is sleeping in a one-bed flat with his three kids and girlfriend after a fire in his home above – but his housing association said it’s fine.

Darren Watson, 38, is on an air bed, while son Isaac, 12, is on the sofa with Logan, ten, and Dolly, nine, sharing a double bed.

Dad Darren is furious that his fire-burnt flat has not been sorted after a month

Logan, Darren, Dolly, Isaac and Senjah are all sharing the flat below with two dogs and a cat

And they are also sharing the cramped property in Willingham, Cambridge, with two dogs and a cat.

Darren told HOAR: “It’s been a nightmare. There’s five of us in a one bedroom flat. It’s been a total nightmare. It’s ridiculous.”

His girlfriend Senjah Brown, 29, let them move into her flat directly beneath the burnt-out property after last month’s fire.

It is thought the blaze was caused after Darren and his mates put out a cigarette in some soil on his balcony.

They often leave cigarettes there but it is thought the hot weather made it extra dry and flammable. 

Pictures show the blackened balcony in the two-storey block of flats as well as extensive fire damage inside the flat.

And Senjah’s bedroom ceiling became water damaged after it rained because it is directly below the fire-burnt balcony, Darren said.

He is terrified that it could collapse and seriously injure his kids. 

He said housing association Cross Keys has repeatedly promised to get his flat sorted but has still failed to get it all done almost a month on from the fire. 

But Cross Keys insisted the flat is safe to occupy. It apologised for the “very disruptive and inconvenient” situation.

Darren hit back: “They’re having a laugh mate. I said to the guy who came out at the beginning ‘would you live in there with your 12-year-old son? It’s a joke.”

He added: “The housing association has dealt with it so badly. I can’t even get someone to call me back.

“It makes me feel sh*t. It’s a sh*t time – the kids were on holiday.

“We’re trying to deal with it but I’m not getting anything back. It’s really pissing me off.”

He said that in the month since the fire had been out, only one surveyor had been out to inspect the property and he didn’t hear anything since. 

Darren recalled waking up at around 4.15am to the fire on the balcony.

He told how he urgently got the kids up and out and tried to go back into the flat to put the blaze out. 

But by that point the smoke was so thick he couldn’t reach the balcony and had to wait for the fire brigade to arrive. 

He added: “It was scary.”

A spokesperson for Cross Keys Homes said: “The health and safety of our residents is always our top priority. Following a small fire on the balcony of the property, we visited on the same day to assess the safety and security of the apartment that was affected.

“There was extensive smoke damage caused to the kitchen which we have thoroughly cleaned.

“We are confident that there are no structural or safety concerns evident in the building and have confirmed to Mr Watson that the home is entirely safe to occupy.

“However, there are works that we are carrying out currently to restore the balcony and replace the stained kitchen. We have been keeping Mr Watson informed of the steps we are taking at all stages of this process.

“Subsequently, Mr Watson made us aware of a leak to the flat below, which we attended on the same day to rectify, check that it was safe (which it was) and are now in the process of repairing the cosmetic damage once the area has dried out.

“We have also taken action to prevent any further water damage being caused by redirecting the rainwater flow away from that area of the building.

“We appreciate that this situation is very disruptive and inconvenient for Mr Watson and his family and have apologised to him for this.

“We are working very hard to resolve this quickly and help get their life back to normal which we hope will be as soon as possible.”

Darren’s housing association said this flat is fine to occupy

Logan and Dolly are sharing the only bedroom

Darren’s balcony caught fire last month
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