Family devastated as blaze wrecks home

A family whose home was wrecked when a blaze ripped through it have spoken of their devastation.


Firefighters were called to The Alders in Billingshurst at around 4.45pm on Monday, August 15.

Six appliances, as well as officers and support appliances, were deployed to the fire which raged for more than two-and-a-half hours.

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Claire Pearless said she was in the garden with her four children when she heard an explosion coming from her bedroom.


“We were in the garden and suddenly there was a massive bang which came from upstairs. It was like an explosion,” the 36-year-old said.

“Before you could even look it was in flames and the whole roof had gone up.”

A neighbour helped the family out of the garden and to a nearby bridge before calling the fire service.

Firefighters said the roof and the first floor of the property had been ‘100 per cent damaged’ by the flames while the ground floor had been ‘75 per cent damaged’.

Fire at a house in The Alders, Billingshurst. Pictures by Eddie Mitchell

Smoke also affected the rest of the building, the fire service said.

Claire said: “I have been poorly and had been in bed but if I had stayed there for another hour or so I would have been dead.

“If we had been in the front room at the time we would not have got out. The whole of upstairs collapsed after about ten minutes.”

Claire married husband David four weeks prior to the disaster.

Fire at a house in The Alders, Billingshurst. Pictures by Eddie Mitchell

All of her wedding gifts along with personal family items and memories have been lost in the blaze.

“We lost absolutely everything,” she said. “I lost my son (Joshua) 14 years ago. He died when he was a baby. I had his pictures and his baby- grows all in there.

“I have got nothing left of that. We are absolutely devastated.”

Claire said she had been back to the house and anything that was safe on the ground floor had now been destroyed as fire had forced the pipes to burst, filling the property with water.

Fire at a house in The Alders, Billingshurst. Pictures by Eddie Mitchell

“When I got back to the house all I did was cry. It just doesn’t seem real.”

Her children, Ayse, 13, Tarkan, 7, Kerem, 7, and Aslan, 5, have all been badly shaken by the ordeal.

She said they had coped better than she was expecting but were still having nightmares.

“It is one of the worst things that can happen to you. But we have got each other, we are very close and we have had a lot of support.”

Hours after the incident the community rallied to help the family.

A Justgiving page was set up by Elle White to help the family ‘rebuild their lives’ while the Six Bells pub also started a collection.

“An hour after the fire we had phone calls from everyone with people saying please can we help you,” Claire said.

“At the end of our street within an hour of the fire there were about 50 people asking ‘What can we do to help?’

“I have never seen anything like it they have just been unreal.

“I think that’s what’s got us through it so far. If it wasn’t for the support I wouldn’t know how we would have coped.”

She added it had not just been people in Billingshurst who had offered to help and she wanted to thank everyone for their support.

Kirsty Cooper-Johnstone, landlady at the Six Bells, said: “On the first evening (Monday) we set up a collection and I would say we had a van’s worth of stuff. It was a great response.

“We are the family pub of the village and we are always wanting to help out the community where we can.”

The pub now has two vans worth of donations but is still looking for more.

You can also donate to the Justgiving page by visiting

The fire service said the blaze was believed to have started in the first floor of the end of terrace house.

A fire service spokesman said the cause of the blaze was still under investigation.

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