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Boy's beloved cat rescued from blaze at family home in Shrubcote, Tenterden

By Rachael Woods

A mother whose son’s life was turned upside down when fire destroyed his bedroom wants him to enjoy a Christmas full of happy memories.

The nightmare began on Sunday, October 30, after Cheyenne Sharland put her seven-year-old son Harvey to bed at around 7.30pm.

A smoke alarm sounded as a fire took hold upstairs at the council-owned property in Priory Road, Shrubcote, Tenterden.

Harvey and Harry
Harvey and Harry

She said: “I had just tucked Harvey into his bed and started doing the ironing downstairs when I heard the smoke alarm.

“For a moment I thought it was the steam from the iron that had set it off.

“But Harvey came running downstairs saying there was a fire and when I looked the whole of the top floor was filling with black smoke.

“It’s incredible how quickly the fire took hold and the smoke spread as it seemed to happen in minutes.”

Cheyenne, 23, a former Homewood School pupil, got her son out of the house and was clutching her ragdoll cat Harry, as well as her doberman puppy Rhyleigh and her mother’s dog, which she was looking after for the night.

The fire badly damaged the family home
The fire badly damaged the family home

She said: “I was trying to keep control of all of them as I dialled 999 but Harry was so distressed he was clawing at me and darted back into the house.”

Firefighters managed to rescue Harry from the blaze that destroyed Harvey’s bedroom, but they had to administer oxygen to revive him.

“When I saw Harry being pulled out he was completely black and looked lifeless and it was then when everything hit me and I just started crying,” said Cheyenne, who works part time in The Three Bears shop, Tenterden High Street.

The trauma did not end for the family as later Harry escaped from a friend’s house in Homewood Road, where he was being cared for, and was then found wandering in the town after an appeal on social media and through Animals Lost and Found in Kent.

Seven-year-old Harvey's toys were all lost in the fire
Seven-year-old Harvey's toys were all lost in the fire

“I nearly lost Harry twice and Harvey was so upset when he disappeared,” said Cheyenne.

The mother and son were at first put into bed and breakfast accommodation in Ashford while puppy Rhyleigh was looked after by a family member. They have since been moved to a temporary home in Woodchurch.

Friends and family have rallied round to help as smoke and water damage have destroyed most of the family’s possessions.

“Hardly anything is salvageable upstairs,” said Cheyenne, a single mother.

Cheyenne and Harvey
Cheyenne and Harvey

A friend has set a fundraising page www.gofundme.com/help-a-mammy-an-son as the family has no beds, bedding or upstairs furniture.

“I’m so grateful for everyone for their kind donations and support and would like to thank everyone who helped to look for Harry,” she said.

Cheyenne said Ashford Borough Council had been great in providing emergency accommodation quickly but she is now in dispute with the authority over the cause.

Fire crews traced the blaze to an electrical socket and she fears that work recently carried out on her bathroom, which involved wiring, could have been to blame.

Council officials say that a faulty appliance plugged into the socket triggered the fire, but Cheyenne, who returned to her home and took pictures of the damage, said: “The side of the socket that was burnt out was not the one with the plug in it.”

She was offered £100 in compensation to replace all the family’s lost possessions.

Cheyenne said that she and Harvey hoped to be back at home by Christmas and were looking forward to being reunited with their beloved pets, but added: “I’m concerned about how my son is going to react to going home as the fire started in his room.

“We want to decorate it nicely and try to lose those bad memories and start afresh.”

Harvey with his beloved cat Harry
Harvey with his beloved cat Harry

A spokesman for Ashford Borough Council said: “We believe the fire was caused by a faulty appliance plugged into the socket.

The council is doing everything it can for Miss Sharland.

“We provided temporary housing immediately and have subsequently moved her into a new temporary tenancy in Woodchurch.

“We arranged for a removals company to box up and move her possessions and offered her an ex-gratia payment of £100 to pay for essential items in recognition of the circumstances.

“We can only strongly emphasise the importance of contents insurance to all tenants, which unfortunately this tenant did not have.

“We frequently highlight the merits of contents insurance and our insurer will provide insurance cover from as little as £1.58 per week.”

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