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Trauma of Sheerness fire victims one year after major blaze tears through Glass House flats

By Lewis Dyson

Friends have told how their lives were changed forever by a major blaze that tore through a block of flats in Sheerness a year ago.

Kirsty Sawyer and Craig Monahan were visiting pal Paul Miles on the top floor of the Glass House when the fire broke out.

Twelve months on, Miss Sawyer has not returned since because she starts to feel sick whenever she gets near the scene.

Friends Paul Miles and Kirsty Sawyer were badly injured in a Sheppey blaze

The 20-year-old said: "It's hard to forget about it. My life is completely different now. You kind of miss how you used to be.

"My breathing is really bad. I'm having to get taxis everywhere from the train station which is £10 a day on just taxis.

"I can't sing any more. I used to sing all the time. It is just little things like that I miss. It's like no matter where you look, the world isn't safe."

Boarded up and surrounded by scaffolding, the now derelict Glass House sits as a reminder of the fire that tore through homes in June last year.

Mr Miles, of Ranelagh Road, Sheerness, said: "I'm used to going past it. I generally start getting angry. I tend to just keep my head down and try not to think about it.

"It was a good building. I did really love my flat so it would be nice to see it get fixed up again and made safer this time."

The Glass House pub on fire in Marine Parade, Sheerness

The 26-year-old suffered three broken ribs, a broken sternum, a collapsed lung, three pelvis fractures and internal bleeding when he fell from a top floor window ledge during the blaze.

He has now healed enough to be back at work at Asda in Sittingbourne.

Miss Sawyer, 20, of Hartlip Close, Sheerness, has to wear gloves because burns on her hands make her more prone to skin cancer. She is having an operation this year to hopefully improve her breathing.

She called her employers, Morrisons in Sittingbourne, "amazing" for letting her get back to work and a sense of normality.

Miss Sawyer also thanked social media users, saying: "Facebook gets a lot of negative publicity that it's causing trouble and causing arguments, but it's good when you need a support network. I've had people I don't know telling me 'I'm glad you're alright'."

One woman got in touch with her to say a video she had made and put up on the site about the fire had made her young son feel a lot better after he was concerned about those hurt in the blaze.

The burnt-out top floor of the Glass House in Marine Parade

The two friends have also volunteered with Kent Fire and Rescue Service to encourage more people to check their smoke alarms.

Sam Jennings used to live on the ground floor of the Glass House, which is on the corner of Richmond Street and Marine Parade. She and her partner lost all of their belongings to water and smoke damage.

She said former residents are still angry that no one has been brought to justice for the arson. Police shelved their investigation in January saying they had exhausted all lines of inquiry.

Mrs Jennings, 29, said: "We all worked tremendously hard for what we had in our homes. It's horrible to think that whoever did it is still out there."

Flames lick a window frame of the Glass House building in Marine Parade, Sheerness

Mrs Jennings now lives in Berridge Road, Sheerness, and she frequently walks past the building.

She said: "It's hard to describe. It's an emptiness because you walk past and most of it is still covered in boarding, but you can still see the tops of the curtains and it's surreal to think that's my old flat.

"I think they should do something about the building, not only for the people that live close to it. It's an eyesore, but it's bad memories for everyone that lived there now and it's kind of hard to move on when it's right on your front doorstep.

"When you read about things like this in the paper you never really fully appreciate what people go through. We are a year down the line now and we are still struggling to recuperate everything we lost that day."

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