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Community fundraiser planned for couple who lost everything in house fire

A Knowle West couple who lost everything when a fire devastated their home last week have been overwhelmed by the kindness of the community coming forward to support them.

John and Kath Elvins, who are in their 70s, managed to escape from their home in Downton Road last Tuesday with their two dogs – when flames engulfed the building after an electrical fault. The blaze was so large, smoke could be seen miles away in the centre of Bristol.

A fundraiser is now planned at Novers Park Community and Social Club on Sunday 11 September as the couple left the house with just with a change of clothes and all their property has been damaged.

John Elvins outside the damaged house which will cost around £180,000 to rebuild.

John who has had a series of health issues including a triple heart bypass last year, as well as sepsis, a blood and liver infection and double pneumonia in 2020, says things often “come in threes” and they are lucky to be alive as the fire took hold so quickly.

He recalls how the blaze started around 10.30am on August 9 – he had just been for a walk and was having a shower before going to a nurse’s appointment at Knowle West Health Park.

He describes it like a missile hitting the house – and says it all went up within around 15 minutes and he had to get out quickly.

While his wife left the property via the front door with the dogs, John rushed to the back garden to get the hose. The neighbours had phoned the fire brigade as the couple’s phones were in the flames – and four engines arrived.

John says: “I was at the back of the house and the side gate was locked – and the only alternative was to come through the smoke and the fireman told my daughter, ‘we are not going to be able to get him out.’ I did burn the back of my throat and my eyes were stinging but they are alright now… Luckily next door wasn’t damaged.

“I’ve lived there 43 years and never made an insurance claim. The whole building is smoke damaged apart from the bit above the garage … There’s now no water, electricity or gas as they had to cut it off…”

The couple did not have contents insurance and were just covered for the building – which will cost around £180,000 to rebuild and take between six to 12 months to complete the work.

But John says he has to pay to take all the rubbish away because it comes under contents – and the couple are just left with the clothes they stand up in.

Images from Avon Fire and Rescue Service show the extent of the damage inside, with most rooms completely gutted.

One of the damaged rooms. Picture Avon Fire and Rescue.
“The amount of kindness shown…”

The pair are now living with relatives and say they are so grateful for all the support from family, neighbours and people within the Knowle West community.

John says: “The amount of kindness shown and the amount of neighbours that came to help, took my washing and washed it and another neighbour cooked a lasagne. I would like to thank people from the bottom of my heart…”

Firefighters managed to get the blaze under control with people having to watch it burn. Picture Claire John.

Claire John who runs the cafe at Novers Park Community and Social Club is organising the fundraiser there with friends Becky Oaten and Amie Caswell. She has known the couple most of her life as they are her parents’ best friends.

She says they had to watch their home burn which was devastating for them and their children –  and the memories in that house are now gone.

She wrote on Facebook: “…There was nothing any of us could do to help, the only good thing to come out of this is we are lucky to have them, no-one dreams of having to start again in their 70s. We are all heartbroken for Kath and John, so the only way I can help is do what we do best and do a fundraiser as they have lost everything…”

The fundraising event will take place at Novers Park Community and Social Club at Novers Park Road on Sunday September 11 from 12-6pm. For any offers of help or donations contact Claire John via Facebook