A Grantham taxi driver says he, his pregnant wife and four children are lucky to be alive after their council house was destroyed by fire last week.
Andrew Gunnett says if it hadn’t been for their five-year-old son, Robin, the family would likely have died in the blaze, which ravaged the upstairs of the house in New Estate, Swinstead.
Mr Gunnett and his wife, Carla, have spoken out about their ordeal, after a heartwarming surge of support from the community following a story in this newspaper last week.
They told how Robin came into the couple’s bedroom at 8.30am and woke them up, hitting them with his large Mickey Mouse soft toy.
When they awoke, the couple saw flames engulfing the landing. Mr Gunnett quickly grabbed Robin and his three-year-old brother Matthew and got them out of the house, before going back in to rescue his two girls, 10-month-old Carrie-Ann and two-year-old Sarah-Ann.
Mr Gunnett, 43, said: “We feel extremely lucky. If it wasn’t for Robin we would have been toast. I went back in to get Sarah-Ann. She was cowering behind the door. I was on my hands and knees because the smoke was so bad. My hair was singed on the left-hand-side of my head.
“The fire was coming out of the airing cupboard, across the ceiling and over the landing. It was filling up with smoke rapidly.”
The family were all treated for smoke inhalation. They also managed to rescue their two dogs from the kitchen. The family were put up in a Travelodge and are now living in temporary accommodation in Stamford while they wait to be rehoused. They had only moved into their Swinstead home in March.
Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue has confirmed the cause of the fire was accidental.
Mrs Gunnett, 22, who is 24 weeks’ pregnant, said: “When Robin came into the bedroom and there was the fire I thought we just need to throw a bucket of water over it, but then I saw the landing lit up orange and thought, ‘we have to get out now’.”
The family has been inundated with help from neighbours and the wider community.
Mr Gunnett said: “We have had more support than we could ever dream of. It has certainly restored my faith in humanity. People have been sending us stuff from Yorkshire and London. People have offered us furniture, but we don’t have anywhere to put it. But we are grateful for the offers and all the help people have given us.”
Among the items given to the family were maternity clothes for Mrs Gunnett and a new uniform for Robin from Corby Glen Community Primary School which he attends.
The family thanked Tesco in Bourne after it donated items including toys and DVDs for the children and Brighthouse in Grantham for gathering donations.
They also thanked the council for their accommodation and their neighbours Sarah Brown, and Mark and Clare Warren who took in the family on the day and also launched an appeal for donations on Facebook.
Mr Gunnett said: “I need to thank my sister and her husband, and my parents in Great Ponton.”
Mrs Gunnett added: “I am amazed by the suport we have had. We are really grateful to all our friends and everybody who has donated.”
Mr Gunnett, who was born in Grantham, said thanks to his employer CanCabs where he has worked for a number of years. He used to own his own cab company, Black Cat taxis, and joked: “People always said I had nine lives and now I think I have spent one of those.”