Bernicia rehome man who escaped house fire

Mr Chapman and Bernicia Housing Officer Tracey Hall outsode his new bungalow in The Garth, Ferryhill

Caring Bernicia staff stepped in to help a man left homeless after fire ripped through a house in Ferryhill, County Durham.

Mr Chapman, 72, known as ‘Chap’ or ‘Chappie’ to his friends, was rescued by firefighters through a back window after the blaze broke out in his dining room, quickly spreading through the rest of the terraced house.

After hospital treatment for smoke inhalation, Mr Chapman was given emergency accommodation by the homeless support Changing Lives charity who have a close working relationship with Bernicia.

Following a conversation and after checks were made, Bernicia housing officer Tracey Hall arranged for Mr Chapman to move quickly into a vacant bungalow in The Garth retirement housing scheme in Ferryhill – ironically just a few hundred yards from Mr Chapman’s badly damaged home.

The fully furnished bungalow in a quiet, friendly community has proved ideal for Mr Chapman who lost most of his possessions in the blaze at the home his family had lived in since it was built in 1905.

“When Changing Lives mentioned Bernicia, it was amazing to think there were so many people trying to help me,” said Mr Chapman – his full name which he changed by deed poll.

“When they said they have offered you accommodation it was a huge ray of hope because I knew I couldn’t go back to live in my house.

“The chance to come here was amazing. The people have been so kind towards me, it takes your breath away, it’s hard to describe.

“The compassion that is around here, it just shows the high level of intelligence of people.

“When I moved in here it was so wonderfully clean, it is absolutely amazing. The people on the estate are all friendly and know my family.”

The cause of the fire on February 28th is still not known. Mr Chapman, who lives alone, was building a model car and went for a lie down when he was awakened by the fire brigade.

“I had a lie down in the front room and the next thing I know is that something is forcing my spectacles off and putting a mask on my face, there’s a lot of white smoke around and I’m being hauled off out into the back street,” he said.

“I owe everything to a neighbour really who heard a bang which I didn’t hear, that alerted her and she called the fire brigade.”

Tracey said: “I was leaving work on my way home when I saw fire engines go flying past and on the A1, there was an incident response van, ambulances and police cars heading this way.

“I phoned the warden Jane to check everything here was okay. We knew there had been a massive fire and made enquiries to find out what it was.

“They passed me information from Changing Lives and I arranged to go and see Mr Chapman.

“It just so happened we had a bungalow available with all of the furnishings in it. He’s so grateful for our help, we’ve all been touched by how thankful he’s been.”

Mr Chapman, who before retirement managed the Northern European Sales and Marketing headquarters of a major American semiconductor house, is now a Bernicia tenant, enjoying life in The Garth community. He doesn’t know at this stage whether he will be able to move back into his terraced home.

The photo shows Mr Chapman and Tracey outside of his new bungalow.