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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Cumbrian family return from holiday to find home gutted by fire

Devastation met a family returning from holiday to find their home gutted by fire.

House fire couple photo
Shaun and Lindsey McMean

Shaun and Lindsey McMean were enjoying a summer trip away to Blackpool with their children Jack, 16, Rachael, 13 and four-year-old Sam when they received a phone call from a friend telling them a massive blaze had started at their home.

The couple, who run Brass Cabs taxi firm, rushed home to Whitehaven with their children to try to salvage what was left of their house in Wasdale Close.

“Shaun said to me that the house was on fire and I asked if he was joking,” said Lindsey, 37.

“There was absolute panic.

“We put the kids in the car and got home as fast as we could.”

Shaun, 49, added: “We were told that you couldn’t see anything but smoke.”

Their kitchen has been destroyed after flames burst through their back door before the blaze spread into the hallway.

Most of the rest of the house is smoke-damaged and the smoke left a layer of black soot across their belongings, with things like televisions and other electrical items rendered useless.

Also lost in the fire was Shaun’s taxi, his motorbike as well as three scooters.

“We had first been told that we had lost everything,” said Lindsey. “When we pulled up, the first thing we could see was the burnt-out shell of the taxi and the house was just black.

“It hit me as soon as we pulled up in the close. You just go into auto pilot.”

Shaun added: “Your whole world is shattered; I thought my job was gone. My bike, which was my pride and joy, is gone.

“It was also the panic of where we were going to stay. Luckily we had some friends that were good enough to let us stay with them. The neighbours were very supportive.”

Son Jack is also feeling the effects of not only losing his house, but one of the mopeds destroyed in the fire was his. It was a 16th birthday present and he was planning to do his CBT test when he got back from holiday.

It could take about six months before the family are able to return home.

Fortunately their house and its contents were insured, and the family are urging other people to consider taking out insurance if they don’t already have any.

The blaze, which happened on Sunday, August 17, is still under investigation by both the police and fire service.

The fire came just days after firefighters in Whitehaven warned the community they were being left vulnerable by a lack of fire cover.

The nearest fire engines were called from Workington and Cockermouth because the Whitehaven firefighters were left without a full crew and a necessary manager. Something that lost vital time according to crew members.

“The firemen said themselves that what was a five-minute job turned into a 15-minute job,” said Shaun. “They could have contained it quicker. It is through no fault of their own but through politics.”

Lindsey added: “We are angry that it could have been dealt with quicker, especially when we have lost so much. But the firemen who were here did a fantastic job and we want to thank them all. But it should’ve been quicker.

“We were lucky we weren’t here. If we had been and it happened later then we might not have been here today.

“We would also like to thank friends Joan Hilliard and Gemma Halligan, plus Shaun’s daughter Sandra and her partner Nicky for all their support.”

Shaun also wanted to let residents know that their taxi company is still in operation but will be running at a reduced capacity.

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