Homeless and destitute after fire

20:57, Aug 19 2014
Shannon Watts
WEDDING PLANS IN DISARRAY: Shannon Watts weeps in the driveway of her fire-destroyed rented home. She and long-time partner Joshua Robinson planned to marry in two weeks, but now find themselves homeless.

Tears flowed when Shannon Watts found the wedding rings in the charred mess of her fire-ravaged home.

Two weeks before the 29-year-old is to marry her long-time partner, Josh Robinson, the Christchurch couple are homeless and destitute.

A fire tore through their Mortlake St, Islington, home about midnight on Monday.

Josh Robinson fire
DISTRAUGHT: Josh Robinson looks at fire damage with his daughters, Nellie-Jane, 11, and twins Mia and Ella, 10. His fiancee, Shannon Watts, and their 4-year-old daughter, Arwen, did not want to go back inside.

Their four daughters, aged 4 to 11, were asleep in their beds when flames started shooting from the laundry and into the ceiling.

The tumble drier had either malfunctioned or overheated.

Relatives staying the night in the lounge yelled when the glass kitchen door, which connects to the laundry, shattered.


The family fled with only the clothes on their backs, a cellphone and a blanket as the fire spread.

Firefighters spent about 20 minutes battling the blaze, which burned so fast and hot that it was lucky the 12 people in the house got out, fire investigator Ian Duncan said.

It showed the danger of leaving appliances on overnight, he said.

Watts and Robinson, who had no contents insurance, went into the home by torchlight to retrieve what they could once the fire was out.

They found their wedding rings, still intact in a drawer, before heading to a relative's home for the night.

Yesterday, friends and family continued the salvage efforts. Items stacked on the driveway included singed decorations, blackened photos and a smoke-damaged bridesmaid dress. Watts thought only of her daughters' safety during the fire. She ran back into the burning house to retrieve Mia, 10.

The couple was determined their Hokitika wedding ceremony would proceed.

They had been together for nearly 13 years and she had "waited long enough".

She still had her wedding dress, as it was at the dressmaker.

If she had lost the dress, "I probably would have cried, even more", she said.

Robinson, 31, hoped to find a rental home in the area first.

The family left the city for a few months after the February 2011 earthquake and when they returned their insurance company would not renew their contents policy.

They could not move far, as twins Mia and Ella, both 10, and Nellie-Jane, 11, went to Hornby schools.

The Press