Burnt out of our home
crashing out after finally getting her triplets to sleep, Sneha Dave, 30, from Harrow, never imagined the horror she’d wake up to…
By the time my husband Brijesh, 31, and I got our three little ones off to sleep, it was 2am.
‘Well, I’m not going to have any trouble nodding off,’ I yawned.
A mum to 9-month-old triplets, it’s fair to say I was often shattered.
Still, we had two extra pairs of hands on deck that week.
It was last May, and Brijesh’s mum Kusum, 59, and dad Narendra, 63, were visiting from India. They were besotted with their grandchildren – girls Rishva and Rutvi and our boy Rithaan – giving me a welcome rest from non-stop childcare.
Kusum and Narendra were sleeping downstairs, and we’d put the triplets in cots in our bedroom – easier than having them in their own room.
Brijesh and I were out for the count within seconds…
Only, at 4am, I awoke with a shocking jolt.
The smoke alarm was screaming, and from downstairs I could hear my in-laws calling up to us.
‘Wake up, something’s happening!’ they shouted.
Heart racing wildly, I shook Brijesh awake.
‘The smoke alarm is going off, and your parents are yelling!’ I said. ‘Can you go down and see what’s going on?’
Brijesh raced downstairs, the bedroom door slamming behind him. Meanwhile, I clambered out of bed to check on the triplets, who were waking up. ‘It’s OK,’ I said, calming them. But then I smelt it. Smoke…
It was billowing under the bedroom door.
Terrified, I let out a scream. There really was a fire! Opening the bedroom door, a wall of heat and smoke hit me.
The nursery, next door to our room, was on fire. ‘Brijesh! Help us!’ I screamed.
I heard his voice come through the smoke. ‘Get back in the bedroom!’ he yelled, frantic. ‘Shut the door!’ The babies were screaming, the room filling with smoke. I whimpered with terror as I ran to the bedroom window.
‘Come on!’ I shouted, as I tried desperately to open it.
But, despite not being locked, it was stuck fast.
Moments later, Brijesh rushed back into the room, grabbed one of the babies and ran back out.
At the top of the stairs, he threw the littl’un to its dad, who was waiting below.
Then he raced back into the bedroom where I was clutching the other two in terror.
‘What’s happening? Are we going to be OK?’ I stammered.
‘It’s OK,’ he told me. ‘We have to stay calm.’
Brijesh then took one of the triplets while I took the other, grabbed my hand tightly and guided us out of the room.
Covering the babies’ mouths with the blankets I’d wrapped them in, we struggled to make
We had no insurance and we were homeless, with triplets to care for
our way across the landing, thick smoke making it impossible to see anything.
Thankfully, the stairs hadn’t caught fire yet, and we were able to make our way down.
Luckily, our neighbours had heard and seen what was happening.
They came to our door, made sure we were safe and took us all into their home, along with Brijesh’s frantic parents.
It was here that I discovered what’d happened after Brijesh had first rushed downstairs to see why the smoke alarm had gone off.
‘I saw a fire had begun in the corner of the babies’ bedroom,’ he told me. ‘The flames were already knee-high, so I filled a bucket with water in the bathroom and threw it over the flames, but it was no use.’
Desperate to stop the fire spreading, Brijesh had been trying to pull baby clothes and bedding out of the way of the flames, but had burned his right hand badly.
‘Oh, Brijesh!’ I gasped. He’d lost all the skin on his palm, which was red and raw.
Four minutes later, a fire engine raced down our road.
We watched as they managed to put out the fire before it spread to the ground floor. But the whole top floor of the two-bed house we rented was completely destroyed.
Moments later, paramedics arrived on the scene.
Brijesh, the babies and
I were taken to Northwick Park Hospital for further tests.
Brijesh had suffered smoke inhalation, and was taken to the Burns Unit for treatment on his hand.
Thankfully, the babies and I were given the all-clear.
Brijesh’s parents were fine, but very shaken up.
We called the private landlord, explained what’d happened. That first night, he put us up in a bed-andbreakfast but after that, we had nowhere to go.
I went with the babies and my mum-in-law to stay with friends in Wembley, while Brijesh and his dad stayed in a flat above the restaurant, where Brijesh worked as a chef.
We were lucky to have kind people around us who would help, but it was so difficult.
Unable to stop thinking about the fire, I was an emotional wreck, scared to go to sleep, afraid all the time.
Three days after the fire, we were allowed to go back to the house, to try to salvage some belongings. So I went with Brijesh, leaving the triplets with his parents.
Walking through the front door, it hit me how quickly our lives had changed. Within minutes, everything became so different…
We weren’t allowed upstairs – they said it wasn’t safe. In a way, I was glad. The thought of seeing my babies’ charred cots and imagining what could’ve been was too awful to bear. We walked through the ground floor, collecting our things. We didn’t own most of the furniture, but we took what was ours – a rug, TV and single wardrobe, along with pots, pans and plates from the kitchen, and any of the kids’ toys we found. We had no insurance, either. ‘Most of the kids’ stuff was upstairs. It’s all gone,’ I wept.
We were homeless, with triplets to care for. ‘I know, but at least we’re all safe and unharmed,’ Brijesh said, putting his arm around me. Three days later, we moved into another place – the top floor of a maisonette in the same area. It was nice having a new home, but it was much smaller, harder to manage with three babies, and carrying the pushchair up and down the stairs was difficult. Poor Brijesh had to go to the hospital twice a week for the next month to get his dressing changed. I’d have to pass our old home on my way to the salon where I work as a beautician. Seeing its blackened windows, I’d want to cry. That was the house we’d taken our beloved babies home to.
I could remember that day so clearly. We’d been so happy, excited, ready for a new chapter.
Now, though, everything felt so bleak.
But, do you know what? People were so wonderful! We got a lot of support from the charity Helping Hands, who’d heard about our plight. And, when Brijesh went back to work at the restaurant a month after the fire and his parents returned to India, Helping Hands sent us a nanny, who helped me put the kids into a routine.
It turned out the fire had been caused by an electrical fault in the nursery.
I’m just so grateful the babies were with us that night, that we had a smoke alarm, and that Brijesh acted so fast.
I try not to think about what could’ve happened if they’d been in the room next door – or if my husband hadn’t been there that night.
He’s a real hero.
Now we’re all looking to the future. And, with three gorgeous, demanding little babies brightening up every day, I know that things can only get better.