Published: 15:32, 17 December 2018
| Updated: 10:32, 20 December 2018
A dad has told how he rescued his young family who were sleeping as a fire raged below their top floor flat.
Tom Claykens spoke of their dramatic escape as the inferno engulfed their home in Biddenden High Street, after being woken up at around 5.20am by the smell of acrid smoke and a loud crackling sound.
"I had a look downstairs and there was a fire and a great deal of smoke," he said.
Tom Claykens talks about the fire
"I quickly woke up my wife and children and I got my son out and my wife got our daughter out. We had to run through the smoke."
Tom said that at first his wife Becky was reluctant to come down the stairs but he told her she had to.
He said: "There was already so much smoke and my wife was in a panic as she didn't know where the fire was.
"She grabbed a dressing gown to cover our baby's face."
Tom added that it was lucky they got out when they did as the blaze has destroyed their home.
He said: "The Christmas presents have gone and my son's only four-and-a-half but he knows what's going on."
Fire crews at the scene
Tom has been inundated with offers of help and support from the village and beyond and he said that Biddenden was "a great village with a great community feel".
A fundraising page has been set up to raise money for the stricken family who have lost their home and belongings at Christmas time.
Tom and Becky's two children who were taken to the William Harvey Hospital for checks have now been released and the family are staying with Becky's mum and sister who run The Bakehouse restaurant in the high street.
The fire started in the first floor flat about the hairdressers Waltz International, while the family were sleeping on the top floor of the building.
'The Christmas presents have gone and my son's only four-and-a-half but he knows what's going on...' - Tom Claykens
At the height of the blaze 50 firefighters and 10 fire engines were deployed to tackle it, together with a specialist height vehicle, bulk water carrier and a command support vehicle.
Fire crews said the blaze had been put out at 6pm, when Biddenden High Street was reopened.
A drone was deployed to survey the fire from above.
Kent Fire and Rescue has thanked everyone for their patience.
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