A South Oxhey mother made an emotional return to her home for the first time since it was devastated by fire two weeks ago and made an unexpected discovery - her pet cat Cookie, which had been missing since the blaze.
Nicky Folly-Kirton, 41, returned to her three bedroom home in Hoylake Gardens on Friday (February 1) to survey the damage and to collect possessions from a shed in the garden.
On January 23 fire gutted the home Ms Folly-Kirton shares with her partner Mark and her two children Jessica, 10, and Callum, 14, and left them with little more than the clothes they stood in.
The fire began in an upstairs bedroom where two engineers were working; fortunately Ms Folly-Kirton was not in the property at the time as she had walked to a nearby takeaway while both children were at their father’s house in St Albans.
She said: "I was not allowed in because of asbestos but I stood at the door and shouted for Cookie.
"I looked around and there was nothing left, even the upstairs floor is gone.
"I just saw all my belongings covered in black.
"Cookie was boarded up in the house; it was unbelievable because we had been out looking for him every night.
"He was in the house when I left but he escaped and must have kept coming back "He is very skinny and smelled of smoke but we have got home and we are complete again."
Thrive found the family a new unfurnished home in Hamilton Road and the South Oxhey community pulled out all the stops to help her out and within days she was inundated with offers of furniture, clothes, and appliances.
The William Morris Labour Club, in Henbury Way, has been at the centre of the help and along with The Ox pub, each have donated £250 to a fund while a number of businesses have put in collection tins.
Mother-of-two Ms Folly-Kirton, who works at NATO naval headquarters Northwood, said she has been stunned by how many of her neighbours and complete strangers are willing to help.
Within days the family had a three piece suite, televisions, clothes, kitchen utensils an electric cooker and other essential household items. They have also received enough money to buy beds and carpets for the new home.
The generosity stands in stark contrast to the events of almost exactly a year ago when a collection of £700 raised in memory of her deceased brother Jason Folly was stolen.
She said: "I was the one that found Jason and that was the worst day of my life but seeing my house on fire was very close.
"I was left with nothing, Thrive has given me and my boyfriend and my children £150 to go shopping for essentials and put us up in a hotel.
"The new home had no furniture at all, so we walked into the shell of a house with about £70 to furnish it."
"But my phone has been almost constantly ringing with people offering me help, someone sent me £20 and someone in Essex called offering help.
"The South Oxhey community has been absolutely amazing, without them I think I would be in the loony bin by now. I can’t thank people enough."