Moment disabled mother's summer house bursts suddenly into flames

Moment disabled mother’s summer house bursts suddenly into flames as blaze ‘sparked by faulty electrics’ leaves garden in ruins

  • Michelle Johnson was furious to learn she may be liable for the blaze
  • The summer house was used for her celebratory balloon display business

A disabled mother’s summer home erupted in flames leaving her garden in ruins as a result of a suspected electrical fault.

Michelle Johnson was left heartbroken after learning that she may have to pay for the damage to her home in Manchester.

The single mother was relaxing in her back garden on the evening of May 25 when the summer house she used for her celebratory balloon business suddenly burst into flames.

Shocking footage shows the structure become engulfed in roaring 12ft-high flames that decimated the garden, smashed her patio and bedroom windows and poured thick black smoke into the house.

Horrified, Michelle called the fire brigade who arrived ten minutes later to tackle the ‘nightmare’ flames, who blamed faulty electrics to the summer house.

Single mother Michelle Johnson’s summer house erupted in flames, ruining her garden

The summer house, which was used to house her balloon display business, caught fire as a result of a suspected electrical fault

The single mother’s son was fortunately not present when the fire ripped through the shed and burnt the garden

The summer house was where Ms Johnson created balloon displays and stored highly flammable items including aerosols, dry wood and cake stands, all which quickly ignited.

The 43-year-old, grateful that her son was out at the time, believes the hot weather is responsible for causing the garden extension lead to overheat as she only had her phone charger and Alexa plugged in.

Left feeling like a ‘squatter’ with the windows boarded up in her damaged property, Michelle and her 15-year-old son Joshua are now forced to couch surf with friends and relatives.

Now the mum-of-three fears she’ll be forced to stump up thousands to Great Places Housing association in damages for the accident and admits she didn’t have any insurance.

She is furious as she claims to have been there ten years and never missed a rent payment, but said she had ‘never been treated so badly in her life’.

Meanwhile, she won’t be able to move back in until it’s fixed in September.

Great Places confirmed that they can ‘re-charge’ customers for the cost of the repairs if they are found to be the ’cause’ of a fire.

They said they were awaiting an update from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service before they decide what actions they would take on ‘recouping the cost of the clean-up’.

The housing association indicated that they were looking into the installation of the electrics in the summerhouse which they say was not done by them. 

However Michelle claimed she wasn’t using the socket when the fire broke out and had instead connected her garden extension lead that day.

The fire service said that they had concluded the fire was ‘accidental’ due to ‘faulty electricity supply’ and that they had decided there would be no further investigation.

The mother now fears she will have to pay for the damage to her home which firefighters say was caused by a suspected electrical fault

Ms Johnson, from Swinton, Manchester, said she had just spent a lot of money doing up her garden for her balloon business.

She said: ‘I was just out on the decking, filling my diary in. It was my summer home so we used to sit out there and relax.

‘I’d been sat out with my son because it was red hot. He’d just gone out ten minutes ago, thank god.

‘I went to go into the house and the whole shed just set on fire. It was a hot day, so the plugs in there got hot and it caused the fire.

‘It set fire inside the shed at first because I have flammable things in there like aerosols, dry wood, cake stands and light-up numbers for my balloon business.

‘It went up rapidly, it was all gone within about five minutes.

‘It was from the house, it was a lead running from the house to the shed.

‘All that was in the plug socket was my phone and my Alexa, it wasn’t overloaded or anything.

‘The plugs got hot and it caused the fire.

‘I’ve had that extension in that summer house for eight months and it’s never set on fire and it’s been hot.

‘They [the housing association] are saying it was because I put the lead through there, that’s why it started.

‘It was that quick. It’s surreal. It smashed the windows, broke my patio doors. It was a nightmare really. I haven’t even cried because it seems like it hasn’t happened, it is so surreal.

‘It seemed to go on for ages. It was horrendous, I’ve lost everything.’

The mother-of-three used the shed for her balloon display business, and contained highly flammable items including aerosols and dry wood

Michelle says the fire brigade said it began due to an electrical fault and they stayed until 11pm to check the safety of other potentially flammable items in her home.

The smoke caused both the upstairs and downstairs windows and patio doors to shatter and completely ruined the inside furniture, walls, and carpet.

Inside the shed, nothing was salvageable and the mum now feels that her home is both unsafe and inhabitable for her son who struggles with asthma.

Michelle said: ‘All the windows went upstairs. They still haven’t been replaced. They’re just boarded up. I feel like a squatter.

‘There was smoke damage in the house. My couch just stunk of smoke, so I had to bin it.

‘I had to rip the carpets up, it was horrible. Everything upstairs and downstairs was just wrecked. It was all wet and full of black smoke.

‘My patio doors aren’t safe. My garden’s like a swamp, I can’t even hang the washing out.

‘My son’s bike and electric scooter were in the shed too. That’s a thousand pounds before anything else.

‘My phone, my Alexa, my iPad was in there, there was all sorts. Nothing was left from the summer house.

‘It took me three years to get where I was, and it’s all gone up in flames.’

Michelle, who is registered disabled as she battles with Crohn’s disease and fibromyalgia, has had to kip on the sofa at her mum’s house – something she claims has worsened her illness.

Michelle said: ‘I haven’t got any money, I’m ill and have lost my summer house where I had my business.

‘I’m so poorly I’ve been in bed and at the hospital all weekend, and the stress flares it up.

‘The housing association haven’t done anything. It’s been nearly six weeks and I’ve still got no windows. I’ve had no repairs.

‘I have to leave my house unattended with thousands of pounds-worth of belongings in. It’s horrible.

‘I’m homeless, I’ve got nowhere to go. I’m going from home to home, I’m going from my mum’s to my sister’s to my mate’s to my boyfriend’s.

‘My son’s been having to come with me. It isn’t acceptable, I’m more concerned about my son, he needs a home.

‘My son’s heartbroken, he doesn’t want to stay at the house. It’s a mess and it’s dangerous.

‘They’re saying I might be liable to be billed for the damage on the property. It was all a pure accident from the heat.

‘I spent thousands on the property, making it all nice, doing it up. I’ve been there for ten years and never missed my rent.

‘I thought they’d put me and my son in a hotel for a bit as I’m ill. I’m paying for a house I’m not living in, I’m still paying all the bills for the gas and electric.

‘It’s disgusting, I’ve never been treated so badly in my life.’

Michelle was forced to move in with friends after the blaze which left her windows boarded up

Simon Robinson, director of neighbourhoods at Great Places Housing Group, said: ‘As a responsible landlord working in a highly regulated sector, the safety of our customers and their homes is our highest priority.

‘The fire was found to have occurred because of faulty electrical wiring which the customer told us was installed by a relative to power a wooden outhouse building that kept flammable materials and gases in it, without the works being legally inspected and authorised by a qualified certified person.

‘We cannot overstate the importance of electrical work being carried out and signed off by a registered professional; failure to do this can have extremely serious consequences. In this case it is extremely fortunate that our customer, or a neighbour, was not seriously injured.

‘We attended the property to make it safe and clear significant amounts of burnt debris and to replace fence panels, and the customer left us a five-star review on Trustpilot. Glass was ordered to replace that which had been damaged by the fire.

‘The glass has now been manufactured and is scheduled to be fitted imminently; we will do this at a time convenient for the customer and have been in touch to try and arrange this.

‘We are awaiting an update from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service which will help us determine what, if any, action we may take with regards to the tenancy or recouping the cost of the clean-up.’

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service issued her with a report confirming the fire took place on the evening of May 25th in the shed at the rear of the property.

They confirmed they had listed the fire as ‘accidental’ but that no further investigation was carried out.

Michelle was advised not to return to her garden for 24 hours and not reinstate electrics in the shed.

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