THE devastated owner of a bungalow destroyed in a raging fire has relived the terrifying moment he helped his family escape from the flames.
Brave Tom Grant, 64, didn’t have a second to think when his boiler exploded and a fire ripped through his home on the corner of Rose Road and Beverley Avenue, Canvey, at around 5:30pm Tuesday night.
He just knew he had to get his beloved wife Valerie and their dog Millie to safety.
Charred remains are all that’s left of the property and the lifetime of belongs inside, despite valiant efforts from Mr Grant and more than 30 firefighters to save the timber-framed building.
Mr Grant, whose hands have been left blackened by his attempts to extinguish the flames, said: “We were sitting in the lounge when the lights went on and off three or four times. Then they went off again and the boiler just went bang.
“Smoke was pouring of it, I couldn’t even breathe. I was terrified but I just wanted to get everyone out. I tried to put the fire out, but it got to the point where I had to choose between saving our house and our belongings, or saving myself.”
Neighbours feared for their homes following news the fire was being fuelled by a fractured gas main and that a gas cylinder had caught alight, prompting concerns there could have been a massive explosion.
A one-of-a-kind pair of Judy Garland shoes was among treasured possessions destroyed in the blaze.
Homeowner Valerie Grant worked as a seamstress for the famed Wizard of Oz star during her illustrious career which spanned over 40 years.
As a token of her dedication and hard work, the actress had presented Valerie with a pair of Judy’s own shoes, valued at an incredible £3,000.
Not quite the Ruby Slippers, but still just as precious, Valerie had kept the shoes as a lasting reminder of the special relationship she had shared with the actress.
Tom Grant said: “Valerie is absolutely devastated. She cherished those shoes more than anything, and now everything we had is all gone.
“The car is completely wrecked as well as the keys which were inside. I can’t even get to work because my van is trapped on the drive. It’s just awful.”
Firefighters were on the scene within four minutes of receiving the first emergency call.
Less than an hour into the fire, officers were forced to evacuate the home for their own safety after the roof collapsed.
Mr Grant, who had only moved to the island a year ago and is now staying at a home in Wickford, added: “We moved here because we wanted to be by the sea and this was our perfect home. It was heart breaking watching it being destroyed.
"At one point the fire fighters just seemed to be fighting a losing battle and when the gas cylinder caught alight we were just waiting for an explosion to happen.
“The fire service was amazing though, they really were. My neighbours have been wonderful as well, offering to help in any way they can. I’m just grateful no one was hurt.”
Investigations are being carried out by the Fire Investigation Team to ascertain the cause of the blaze.