Derbyshire family left homeless and heartbroken after fire breaks out in car on safety recall
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She said: “I got in and turned the ignition on, and could smell something straight away. I looked down in the footwell and saw flames coming from under the steering wheel where the electrics are.
“I jumped out and tried to beat the flames with my shoe but that didn’t work so I called for my partner to ring the fire service, got my two youngest children out of the house and then started warning the neighbours because I was worried it would spread from to next door.”
Zoe said the fire service arrived around 25 minutes after the fire began as they had encountered traffic obstructions around the station, and by that time the flames had leapt into her front room as smoke billowed through the house.
She added: “It’s completely taken the living room, it’s ridiculous, but everything in the house is smoke damaged and unusable. The windows have gone through, the guttering has melted. We went in the day after to start sorting things out and saved a few things for the kids but it’s unliveable.
“The most heart-breaking bit is that I’ve lost things from both my parents. Everything else is replaceable. My mum died in 2017 and dad in 2019. We had toys, teddies and clothes they gave to the kids, photos of them, and bears made from their clothes. All of that’s gone. It feels like I’m going through the grieving process again.”
She added: “It will take a while to rebuild the house but the emotional damage is always going to be there We’ve not slept properly since, and there’s no stability for the kids. They might be resilient but they don’t know whether they’re coming or going.
“I’ve been on autopilot trying to sort everything out, but when I stop it feels like being hit by a train. Yesterday one of the kids threw a snowball at something and the bang absolutely terrified me.”
As well as the family fallout, Zoe, partner Matt Roos and the children, aged two to 17, are left with logistical and legal problems to solve.
Their landlord Johnnie Johnson Housing put them up in the Palace Hotel in the immediate aftermath, but has so far been unable to find a spare local property large enough to suit the family.
The housing association has said it could take a minimum of six to eight weeks to repair the house and fit a new kitchen and bathroom, but Zoe fears it could take much longer and she is now desperately seeking temporary rental accommodation.
Zoe said: “I appreciate we need to take what we can get, but we’ve been offered two-bedroom properties and we’ll never fit all of us in there.”
She is also looking for Kia to take responsibility for the fire, given her car was apparently subject to a safety recall for known faults with its positive temperature coefficient (PTC) heater, part of the vehicle’s air conditioning system.
Zoe, who bought the car second hand in 2020, said: “We’d had no problems at all with the car. It’s been serviced and no one ever mentioned anything. The first I knew about the recall was a letter we received, dated December 5, 2022. As soon as I read it, I phoned up the Kia place in Stockport to book an appointment to get it fixed.
“The earliest they could fit me in was January 10. I was told the job would take one hour but, when I got there, they said it would take all day. I live 20 miles away and needed to get back for the children, so I couldn’t leave the car that long. At no point did anyone from Kia say I shouldn’t drive it or park near the house.”
She added: “I want them to take responsibility and pay for damages. If they knew my car could do that, they should have said: ‘Do not drive it, do not put your kids in it, do not put it near your house.’”
Zoe says it took two days for anyone from Kia to acknowledge the family’s plight following the fire but the company is now investigating the situation.
A Kia spokesperson said: “We're sorry to hear about what has happened. Kia UK has a process in place for serious instances such as this, which our customer support team is now following.
“This will involve gathering more information and conducting a full review of these details. Kia UK has started looking into this issue, and as soon as we have more information, we will be in touch directly with the customer.”
In the meantime, Zoe has resorted to launching a crowdfunding appeal so she can begin replacing the children’s clothing and possessions
She said: “Everyone’s been brilliant – the neighbours and the wider community – which has been really nice. It’s making the best out of a crappy situation.”
To make a donation in support of Zoe and her family, go to https://bit.ly/3XILTB2.
Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service was asked to provide its account of the incident for this story, but had yet to do so at the time of writing.