A suspected electrical fault has destroyed a disabled mother’s garden at her summer home.
Michelle Johnson was left heartbroken after learning she could 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 engulfed in roaring 12ft-high flames that ravaged the garden, smashed its patio and bedroom windows and poured thick black smoke into the house.
Panicked, Michelle called the fire brigade who arrived ten minutes later to tackle the ‘nightmare’ blaze, which they blamed on faulty electrical in the summer house.
Single mother Michelle Johnson’s summer house goes up in flames, destroying her garden
The summer house, which was used for his balloon display business, caught fire due to a suspected electrical fault
The single mother’s son was fortunately not present when the fire tore through the shed and engulfed the garden
The summer house was where Michelle made balloon displays and stored highly flammable items, including aerosols, dry wood and cake stands, which caught fire quickly.
The 43-year-old, thankful her son was outside at the time, believes the hot weather was responsible for overheating the garden extension as she only plugged in her phone charger and Alexa.
Left feeling like a ‘squatter’ through a window in her damaged property, Michelle and her 15-year-old son Joshua are now forced to couch surf with friends and relatives.
Now the mother-of-three fears she will be forced to stump up thousands to Great Places Housing Association for damages caused by the accident and admits she has no insurance.
He became furious as he claimed he had been there for 10 years and had never missed a rent payment, but said he had ‘never been treated so badly in his life’.
Meanwhile, he can’t go back until it’s fixed in September.
Great Places has confirmed it can ‘re-charge’ customers for the cost of repairs if they are found to have ’caused’ the fire.
They said they were awaiting an update from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service before deciding what action they would take to ‘recover clean-up costs’.
The housing association has indicated that they are looking into the electrical installation at the summerhouse which they say was not done by them.
However, Michelle claimed she was not using the socket when the fire broke out and instead connected her garden extension lead that day.
The fire service said it had concluded the fire was ‘accidental’ due to a ‘faulty power supply’ and decided there would be no further investigation.
The mother now fears she will have to pay for damage to her home which firefighters say was caused by a suspected electrical fault.
Michelle, from Swinton, Manchester, said she spent a lot of money developing her garden for her balloon business.
She said: ‘I was out on the decking, filling in my diary. It was my summer house so we used to sit and relax there.
‘I was sitting outside with my son because it was red hot. He only left ten minutes ago, thank God.
‘I went into the house and the whole shed was on fire. It was a hot day, so the plugs there got hot and it caused the fire
‘First the fire started inside the shed as it contained flammable items such as aerosols, dry wood, cake stands and light up numbers for my balloon business.
‘It went up quickly, it was all over in about five minutes.
‘It was from the house, it was a lead 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 that caused the fire.
‘I had that extension in my summer house for eight months and it never lit up and it was hot.
‘They [the housing association] I’m saying this because I led there, that’s why it started.
‘It was that fast. It’s surreal. It broke windows, broke my patio door. It was truly a nightmare. I didn’t even cry because it felt like it didn’t happen, it was so surreal.
‘It seemed like ages. It was horrible, I lost everything.’
The mother-of-three used the shed for her balloon display business and it contained highly flammable materials including aerosols and dry wood.
Michel said the fire brigade said it was started by an electrical fault and they stayed at his house until 11pm to check the safety of other potentially flammable items.
The smoke caused the upper and lower windows and patio doors to shatter, and interior furniture, walls and carpets were completely destroyed.
Inside the shed, nothing was salvageable and the mother now feels her home is both unsafe and livable for her son, who struggles with asthma.
Michelle said: ‘All the windows went up. They have not been replaced yet. They’re just boarding up. I feel like a squatter.
‘There was smoke damage to the house. My couch just stunk of smoke, so I had to bin it.
‘I had to rip up the carpet, it was horrible. Everything above and below is simply destroyed. The whole is full of wet black smoke.
‘My patio door is not secure. My garden is like a swamp, I can’t even hang the washing up.
‘My son’s bike and electric scooter were also in the shed. It’s a thousand pounds before anything else.
‘My phone, my Alexa, my iPad was there, everything was there. Nothing was left of the summer house.
‘It took me three years to get to where I was, and everything went up in flames.’
Michelle, who is registered disabled as she battles Crohn’s disease and fibromyalgia, had to sit on the sofa at her mother’s house – something she claims made her illness worse.
Michelle said: ‘I have no money, I’m sick and I’ve lost my summer house where I had my business.
‘I’m so bad I’ve been in bed and in hospital all weekend, and the stress makes it worse.
‘The housing association did nothing. It’s been almost six weeks and I still haven’t received a window. I had no repairs.
‘I have to leave my house with thousands of pounds worth of stuff. It’s terrible.
‘I’m homeless, I have nowhere to go. I go from house to house, I go from my mother to my sister to my partner to my boyfriend.
‘My son has to come with me. This is not acceptable, I am more worried about my son, he needs a home.
‘My son is upset, he doesn’t want to stay at home. It’s a mess and it’s dangerous.
‘They say I can be liable for property damage. It was a pure accident from the heat.
‘I spent thousands on the property, making everything beautiful. I have been there for ten years and have never missed a rental.
‘I thought they would put me and my son up in a little hotel because I’m sick. I’m paying for a house I don’t live in, I’m still paying all the gas and electric bills
‘It’s disgusting, I’ve never been treated so badly in my life.’
Michelle was forced to move in with friends after a fire that boarded up her windows
Simon Robinson, neighborhood director at Great Places Housing Group, said: ‘As a responsible landlord operating in a highly regulated sector, the safety of our customers and their homes is our highest priority.
‘The fire proved to be caused by faulty electrical wiring which the customer told us had been installed by a relative to supply electricity to a wooden outhouse building which contained flammable substances and gases, works duly inspected and approved by a qualified certifier.
‘We cannot overstate the importance of electrical work and being signed off by a registered professional; Failure to do so can have very serious consequences. In this case it is extremely fortunate that neither our customer nor the neighbor was seriously injured.
‘We attended to secure the property and clear a significant amount of burnt debris and replace fence panels and the customer left us a five-star review on TrustPilot. Fire-damaged glass was ordered to be replaced. The glass is now manufactured and will be installed shortly; We will do this at a time convenient for the customer and have been contacted to try and arrange this.
‘We are awaiting an update from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to help us determine what action, if any, we can take in relation to rent or to recover cleaning costs.’
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service issued him with a report confirming the fire had started in the shed at the back of the property on the evening of May 25.
They confirmed they had listed the fire as ‘accidental’ but no further investigation had been carried out.
Michelle was advised not to return to her garden for 24 hours and not to re-install the shed’s electrical.
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