Islington mum speaks out about blaze that wrecked her 17th storey Old Street flat
- Credit: Jodie Meloche McQuade
A mother-of-three whose 17th floor flat was completely obliterated by a fire on Sunday has described the emotional moment she returned home to see her home going up in smoke.
Jodie Meloche McQuade, a London Ambulance Service emergency crew worker, has also thanked the community for donating over £5,000 towards helping her rebuild her life, after her three-bed duplex flat in Godfrey House on the St Luke's Estate, Bath Street, Islington, was gutted by flames.
The London Fire Brigade has no idea what caused the fire to break out when Jodie and her children were having dinner at her mother's house nearby.
Jodie, 33, only found out about the disaster when she saw she had about 80 missed calls from her neighbours.
She told the Gazette: "My neighbour said, 'You've got to come back. The flat's on fire', and I was thinking, 'Why do I need to go back because I will just add to the confusion', and then they said, 'Jodie it's your flat'. I was so shocked."
She returned home immediately, to find the roads blocked, police cordons and all her neighbours outside.
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"I looked up at the flat and it was up in smoke. Just gone," said Jodie.
"I saw my balcony and kitchen and front room, and the smoke was thick and black. I tried not to look too much, but it was just going up and up, and going crazy.
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"It was bellowing out of the house almost like someone was pumping it out.
"My balcony was really nice before with a nice seating area, and it was a nice place to sit out in the evening.
"Our living space was upstairs, and me and the kids would all be in that room all the time. The heart of our home has just gone, and looking up at that made me sad."
Jodie and her 13-year-old daughter and seven-year-old twins - whose father is a firefighter - are being put up in a hotel in Angel, and don't expect to move back in for at least four months, when repairs will be able to start.
She said: "We were allowed back in for five minutes to grab essentials from downstairs as that was untouched by the fire, but it's haunting, to see our family home just in black darkness.
"It needs a massive clean from the smoke.
"My housing officer said no one can go back in for four months because there's high amounts of asbestos that's not been removed, so it's really dangerous.
"I can never complain as I'm not on the streets.
"I'm so grateful but obviously it is hard, as I've got nowhere to cook for my children, and no idea on when we might move back in."
Jodie had no home insurance, and most of her belongings have been destroyed, but more than £5,000 in donations have already been made to a crowdfunder started by her mother Denise.
The fire door in the flat, which separates the two levels, means that everything in the bedrooms downstairs escaped without even any smoke damage - something Jodie wants to highlight safety wise.
However, most of her belongings were upstairs.
"We have pretty much lost everything except for the beds, mattresses and a chest of drawers," she said.
"Last week my kids had put all their clothes on the floor in their bedroom, and had made the house messy, and I said bring them all up to me, and I'll wash them.
"Then Emily Thornberry who was out canvassing knocked on my door, and I broke down in tears because I wasn't being listened to by my kids. They then brought them all up and put them in the washing basket, and I wish I hadn't made them do that now, because they're all ruined.
"Some things are purely sentimental and can never be replaced. One of my good friends [musician] Erroll Kennedy passed away and his mum gave me his Arsenal top, and my late grandma's [Anita Melloche] pictures who was a well-known artist.
"But I just want to try to get back some basics like clothes, a cooker, furniture, kitchen utensils, and some toys."
She added: "I'm still numb, but if I'm honest I feel really lucky, as our neighbours are ok, and no one got hurt.
"I'm so lucky the community from family, friends and strangers have been so kind and donated, and offered to cook food.
"They've offered kindness and support, and people have been saying, 'If you want to talk or want me to make you laugh'.
"Those things don't go unnoticed, and it's not all about money, it's about that as well. That's kept us going and strong, and as my mum said, that's bigger than the fire."
View the crowdfunder at bit.ly/3tJJc2O.