Published: 16:34, 03 January 2020
| Updated: 16:44, 03 January 2020
A Folkestone man whose house was badly damaged in a massive fire earlier this week has spoken of his family's ordeal.
Ben Hills and his wife and son were on holiday when they first heard the developing news on Monday.
Mr Hills said: "We were abroad when we got a series of texts from a few of our friends telling us that our neighbour's house was on fire.
"They said that our house was OK, then about an hour later we got another call. I travelled back on the next available flight.
"When I got there it must have been about 10pm, and I just stood there.
"The first house had already gone, the roof had collapsed in, and ours was on fire.
"It felt like I was standing in the middle of a movie set."
The fire saw two adjacent houses destroyed, and significant damage dealt to Mr Hills' house.
"Once it had been put out, we had a look from another neighbour's garden, and that's when it really sunk in", he continued.
"From the front it looks bad, but from the back it is worse."
Despite being badly damaged, Mr Hills' house was saved alongside the other houses in the street thanks to the large team of firemen who worked around the clock to combat the blaze.
He said: "My thanks goes out to every single one of the fire fighters, they were incredible, as everyone was on the night and has been since.
"They went far beyond the call of duty" - Ben Hill
"It was a monstrous operation, and I still can't quite believe that our house was saved.
"The evening of the fire, they went in and got some items out, that meant so much.
"They went far beyond the call of duty and it meant the world to us.
"It felt like to these guys it wasn't just any fire, they really cared.
There was even a small moment of celebration for Mr Hill, 49, on the discovery of their beloved pet's survival.
He continued: "The first evening, the crews gave me 30 seconds to go in and rescue our cat.
"The first thing I put my foot on were roof tiles, which was jarring, but there she was, hiding under the stairs.
"There are very much small miracles to be thankful for, but obviously for every item we got out, we lost so much more, a lot of things that we can never replace.
"Nevertheless, at one point looking at that fire I wasn't expecting anything to survive, so we are absolutely taking what we can.
Since the fire, there has been an outpouring of support for those affected by the blaze, with people from all over Folkestone offering aid and wellwishes.
"The kindness that everyone has shown... it's fantastic" - Ben Hill
People have offered to donate clothes, furniture and money for the victims, with an online fundraiser having raised more than £2,000 so far.
Mr Hill said: "We are really touched by the level of support from Folkestone, we can't believe it.
"The kindness that everyone has shown, especially just after Christmas... it's fantastic.
"If, right now, I stood and read all of the kind messages I have received, I would never have enough time in the day, but each one means so much."
"In our road, people have been looking after us, washing our clothes and more. We honestly cannot thank everyone enough."
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