The Grange Estate Fire Fund

In the early hours of the morning of 7 November 2018 a fire broke out in the roof of Willow House on the Grange Estate in East Finchley.

Fifteen fire engines and around 100 firefighters arrived to find a fire in the roof of the building.  Thankfully, there are no reports of any injuries. 

Sadly, at least 24 residents from 13 flats are directly impacted.  Many have been unable to  return to their properties due to the damage to the block and are currently being rehoused. The affected residents have also lost their possessions in the fire. 

Two members of CommUNITY Barnet, Andrew Gurr and Helen Harte, and one member of Grange Big Local, Jon Woolfson, have set up this GoFundMe page to help those affected start to rebuild their lives.

CommUNITY Barnet is a national London-based registered charity. We are the umbrella organisation for the local voluntary and community sector in Barnet. Established in 1979, we have been supporting and building capacity to voluntary and community groups, charities and faith groups across the borough.  CommUNITY Barnet works in partnership with community group Grange Big Local, which is part of the Big Local initiative funded by the Big Lottery Fund. 

The affected residents, who lost their homes and possessions in the fire on the Grange Estate, live within the catchment area of Grange Big Local, and therefore CommUNITY Barnet and Grange Big Local are eager to help those affected by the fire. 

All funds raised will be distributed to those affected by the fire, to support them with buying the things they need to replace or items needed to set up a new home elsewhere. We intend to work with Barnet Homes, the owners of the Grange Estate, to identify parties requiring support and then pay the money directly to the individuals involved.

More details about CommUNITY Barnet and Grange Big Local can be found at https://www.communitybarnet.org.uk/ and http://www.grangebiglocal.org/

Update - 
I thought you might like to read a very personal story from the fire. 

Tuesday 6th of November

I am finishing work slightly earlier than usual as I need to prepare dinner for a friend who is coming to visit. We shared a nice meal (if I can say so myself) and even better conversation.  She left around 10pm without knowing I was 2h away from the horrible event.

I cleaned my dishes and went to bed. The next thing I hear is my flatmate knocking at each bedroom door, saying: "girls wake up there is a fire and they are asking us to leave".  I remember her face when she said “we need to leave now, look outside can you not see the smoke?"

The smell was horrible and half asleep I did as I was told, grabbed my mobile and left the house.  As we left we gave no thought to our bags or coats, or needing oyster cards or money. I would only be outside for a couple of minutes, how wrong I was.  We never thought that, whatever we were not taking then ...  might not ever be taken.

We are now outside and see lots of people looking around, trying to find out where the smoke was coming from. I recorded a video and you can even hear us laughing at some point with the idea that someone "must have burnt their toast". The reality had not yet hit.

Then, suddenly, a massive flame came from the roof ....   I start crying and trembling, trying to figure out if what I was seeing was real. 

I remember the smell, not like a campfire with lovely wooden burnt smell.... Just different. I cannot describe it, how could I describe what it was the smell of someone else's possessions burning, his privacy was being burnt, his memories, his life as he knew it.

At this point the fire was on top of my neighbours. Fire alarms were singing non-stop, like in the movies from the Second World War. It was horrible, so loud!

I called my boyfriend between tears to update him and he said he was coming to pick me up. He lives over an hour drive from me so at this point I just wanted to hear his voice and no need to come all the way to me." I will be fine" I said. But, when he saw the video he knew we were not going to get in the house again that night. I did not know this, not yet, it felt like a bad dream and I will wake up soon.

The fire was controlled temporarily but then, the roof collapsed and started again even harder. Fire marshals were coming non-stop, police also but.... we all thought the same: there is no ambulance, nobody was inside, and we are all ok.  I felt so small, how the smell did not wake me up? What if this happened to be later? Would we still be on time to leave? I looked around and I could see my neighbours with his big dog. He was safe too.

The fire brigade were smashing the windows in order to get inside. I could not believe that those men were going into the room where we could see the fire coming from. I have never seen anything as brave and scary.

Some people came offering tea and biscuits in the front yard. This was the first time I experienced the feeling of being homeless, it stays with me, and I am homeless. The smell, the noise, the cold as we were in PJ's, the confusion, these thoughts constantly go around in my brain.  

I was back at my boyfriend's at around 4am with this horrible smell in my hair and clothes. I closed my eyes and I could hear the alarms and see the smoke, I could smell it so vividly that I decided to stay awake... till I finally surrendered.

Night time is the worst part. I do not want to sleep because when I wake I relive it again. I know it is not a bad dream. Yes I had my boyfriend, as my family lives far away, but the feeling of vulnerability has not left me ever since.

All the trauma, then having to deal with the bureaucracy, paperwork, what to do, who to talk to, I could not deal with all this. No coat, no money, no identification......I was a no one. Yesterday I was in my room, today I don't have any room and life is not always fair.

A week later my flatmates and I were finally ready to deal with our situation and decided to go to Barnet homes. I must admit the treatment from Helen Shannon, (Hope North London) Helen Harte, (CommUNITY Barnet) Amanda Q and Irena (Barnet Homes) has been fantastic. We were listened too and felt that someone was taking care of us while we were unable to.

Unfortunately, life can be very tricky and, last Thursday, a guy came into my work and stole various mobile phones. 

I lost my house, my things, had people coming to my room to wake me up because I was not safe. Two weeks later someone violates my space again he stole my phone, with contacts, pictures, memories. I feel lost.

I do not have enough words to say thank you for all this, it does matter and it does make a difference. Thank you.

Donations

 See top
  • Willow House, Martin School 
    • £400 (Offline)
    • 22 mos
  • CommUNITY Donations 
    • £751 (Offline)
    • 22 mos
  • Mary Hogben 
    • £200 
    • 23 mos
  • Gail Coles 
    • £130 
    • 23 mos
  • Jeremy Clynes 
    • £460 
    • 23 mos
See all

Fundraising team: Grange Big Local & CommUNITY Barnet (4)

Helen Harte 
Organizer
Raised £3,916 from 10 donations
London Borough of Barnet, Greater London, United Kingdom
Julie Pal 
Beneficiary
Jon Woolfson 
Team member
Raised £325 from 3 donations
Andrew Gurr 
Team member

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