Essex

Coronavirus: Essex house fire couple found home by community

Tracey and Mark Booth Image copyright Mark Booth
Image caption Tracy and Mark Booth had been sleeping in a tent in their garden

A community group helping people through the coronavirus crisis has come to the aid of a couple whose home was gutted by fire.

Tracy and Mark Booth had to sleep in their garden after their home in Essex was destroyed by the blaze on Tuesday.

They declined the council's emergency accommodation as it was too far from Mr Booth's job deep-cleaning care homes.

Mrs Booth said she was "lost for words" after a volunteer support group found an empty home for them and their pets.

"I can't find the words. I'm just so, so grateful," said Mrs Booth, 51. "I'm just so grateful for the kindness of strangers."

Image copyright Mark Booth
Image caption The fire in the semi-detached house is believed to have been caused by an electrical fault

The group which offered help - The Colchester Anti Loo Roll Brigade - was founded by Peter Dutch.

It was set up to assist people who want to help others during the coronavirus pandemic, such as those who can deliver supplies to the vulnerable.

It sprang into action when Mrs Booth explained on BBC Essex that she and her husband did not have insurance on their home in Heybridge, near Maldon.

Unable to find temporary accommodation themselves and unwilling to leave their three dogs and two cats, they were sleeping in a tent in their garden and relying on donations of food from neighbours.

"It's just really, really shocking," she said. "It really hit home this morning - it was quite heartbreaking. I just feel lost, so lost."

Image copyright Mark Booth
Image caption The Booths have now found new accommodation for them and their pets

Mr Dutch offered the group's assistance when he called the station, which has been part of the BBC's Make a Difference campaign.

He said: "There's an army of people who want to help. We've got your back, so don't worry."

Within three hours, he had spoken to a group member who had offered the Booths and their pets use of a house for free, with other members offering donations of furniture.

Mr Dutch said members were able to offer houses which were temporarily empty either because tenants have left or sales have been uncompleted because of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Find BBC News: East of England on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you have a story suggestion email eastofenglandnews@bbc.co.uk

More on this story

Around the BBC