“This can’t be happening to them” - a family responds to “forty-foot flames and a wall of fire” that engulfed their garden and possessions. 

Natasha and Paul Roach had just begun a holiday with their children in Florida when they found out their property was ablaze following an out of control field fire in Toms Lane, Kings Langley on July 24. 

The family, who had flown out the day before on a two-week break with friends, learned of the fire on social media. Natasha called her mother Lynne who lives around the corner on Station Road to find out if it was true.

“She just said, ‘What’s happening in our garden? Is there a fire in our garden?’,” Lynne said.

Watford Observer:

Lynne had heard sirens just moments before her son Luke called to say she needed to “get up there” because his sisters’ garden was on fire. 

“I was a bit thrown,” she said, “A neighbour who had been filming the whole thing had put it online. Obviously, I didn’t want Natasha to find out via social media, but ten minutes later she called.”

The fire, believed to have been started accidentally, scorched the farmland behind Natasha’s house entirely black and fire crews from St Albans, Watford and Welwyn Garden City were called to the scene.

Lynne said: “It was quite stressful. There were forty-foot flames, a wall fire - I just thought ‘this can’t be happening to them’.

“Some builders working on a property opposite came to try to put it out. The fire had completely burned all along the field, and Natasha’s neighbours.”

Watford Observer:

Despite the size of the field fire, only two properties on Toms Lane were affected - Natasha’s and her neighbours. In the blaze two large sheds containing valuable items belonging to the family were completely consumed.

Lynne said: “We had just spent many hours getting nice furniture for Natasha’s daughter’s pre-prom.

“My daughter is very fastidious, and she had put everything away before she went on holiday. There were four bikes, a drone, a large eight-birth tent, the kid’s electric scooters, lots of nice furniture, diving equipment.”

Lynne went on to say her son-in-law Paul had lost his twin brother, Clive, in 2000 involving a car accident and in the shed a box of keepsakes belonging to Paul had been destroyed. Lynne said: “He is absolutely devastated to remember Clive’s things were in there.”

Watford Observer:

Lynne said Natasha had suggested the family should come home. “She said ‘Shall I come back?’. She’s texting saying she can’t sleep, that it has spoiled their holiday to a degree thinking about what they’ve lost. It’s just playing on their mind.

“Thank god we hadn’t gone with them, thank god we were here. It was nice for them knowing they didn’t have to come all the way back.”

Lynne’s husband, Bruce Prochnik, was out shopping when the fire took hold. He said: “I was totally oblivious out shopping. 

“I couldn’t believe it. It was a real shock - unbelievable really. Why these two houses? And it destroyed such valuable stuff.”

Lynne praised the fire crews who fought the blaze, saying: “They stayed all night long. There was a tree they couldn’t put out. 

“But they came back the next day to check it was okay - they were brilliant.”

Lynne said the family were contacting an insurance company from Florida to see what can be recovered. She added: “We will take time to clear it up with my daughter.“