Homeless and destitute after fire

03:58, Aug 20 2014
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.

Replacement school uniforms are on the way for the daughters of a Christchurch couple who lost almost everything in a house fire two weeks before their wedding. 

Shannon Watts, 29, Josh Robinson, 31, and their four daughters aged 4 to 11, are homeless after a blaze tore through their Mortlake St, Islington, rented home just before midnight on Monday.

Their tumble drier had either malfunctioned or overheated, sending flames shooting from the laundry, across a porch and into the house.

By the time the smoke alarm sounded, the fire was spreading to the bedrooms. 

Relatives staying in the lounge raised the alarm before the family fled with only the clothes on their backs, a cellphone and a blanket as the fire spread.

Watts and Robinson had no contents insurance. 


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

South Hornby School, where the couple's 10-year-old twins Mia and Ella attend, has offered new uniforms and a fees break for the year. It garnered community support after posting a message about the family's predicament on its Facebook page. 

Principal Simon Moriarty said the response was ''huge''.

The school had received offers for donations of food, vouchers, clothing, blankets and temporary accommodation. 

''It's started an avalanche of goodwill. It's a testament to the power of social media,'' he said. 

Pupils had approached him wanting to hold a mufti day to raise money for the family. 

It was ''terrible'' timing just before the couple planned to marry, Moriarty said. 

''Hopefully, with all those little things [of help], they can really get pleasure out of such a special day.''

Robinson said today the fire was only now starting to sink in.

''It's very overwhelming at the moment. We've barely spoken about the wedding at this stage,'' he said. 

The ''main thing'' was that everyone got out alive. 

''It's only stuff, it's only house. It doesn't matter where we go, we can make another home,'' Robinson said. 

The couple was determined their Hokitika wedding ceremony would proceed early next month. They had been together for nearly 13 years and Watts had "waited long enough".

Their rings survived the blaze and Watts' wedding dress was at the dressmaker. 

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

News of the free South Hornby School uniforms and fees break brought another round of tears from Watts. 

Eldest daughter, Nellie-Jane, attended Hornby High School's intermediate department. The couple's youngest, Arwen, 4, had not yet started school. 

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.

The Press