VIDEO: Blaze destroys Brixham family's home
A SOUTH Devon mother-of-12 has lost everything in a blaze which destroyed her home just three days before Christmas.
The port of Brixham is already rallying to help Heidi Barton (pictured) and her family after the devastating fire.
She was at the hospital bedside of one of her young children when she was told about the blaze and rushed back to Brixham to find her house, which was not insured, wrecked by the flames.
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Video by Dave Ellis
Single mum Mrs Barton, who was meant to be celebrating her 43rd birthday on the day of the disaster, is just hoping the ashes of another of her children, who died at birth, can be recovered from the home after the fire, which also killed three of the family's pet dogs and a tortoise.
Mrs Barton, whose children are aged from 23 to seven months, was at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children with seven-month-old daughter Phoebe after the Downs syndrome girl, who was born with a hole in the heart, had to undergo an operation to insert feeding tubes into her stomach, when her son called her to say her home in Briseham Road was in flames.
It is believed an electrical fault in a fridge freezer may have started the fire. There were no smoke alarms in the property.
The 43-year-old dinner lady at Furzeham Primary School rushed back in the middle of the night to discover her terraced house destroyed.
The house was empty at the time. The five children who still live with her were staying at their older siblings' homes in Brixham and Newton Abbot.
Two miniature Yorkies died in the fire and a Bichon Frise was taken to the vet and put in an oxygen tank after suffering from severe smoke inhalation, but did not survive.
Mrs Barton said from the scene: "At least everyone is OK. That's the main thing, but I've lost everything. All I want now is for the firefighters to get back in and rescue my son Jesse's ashes. If I could recover pictures of my late mother, too, that would be great. Everything else I don't care about right now."
Jesse was born prematurely and did not survive.
Mrs Barton's children are Robbie, 23, Ashley, 21, Jami, 18, Dani, 18, Corrie, 16, Kasey, 15, Cody, 14, Harry, 13, Hollie, 11, Eve 10, Phoebe, seven months. Jesse died four years ago.
Mrs Barton said she will have live at her son's house across the road for the time being.
She said: "I went into labour with Phoebe the day after my mum died of a heart attack. Phoebe had two holes in the heart and needed surgery. Now this just before Christmas and on my birthday. It really hasn't been a good year for me."
Mrs Barton said the children's Christmas presents, Phoebe's oxygen bottles and her medication were all destroyed.
At the peak of the incident in the early hours of Saturday, December 22, 50 firefighters from Brixham's retained fire station, Paignton and Torquay attended along with the water bowser and bronto platform from Torquay and the incident command unit from Totnes.
Ashley Barton, Mrs Barton's son who lives opposite her house, raised the alarm after neighbours knocked on his door to say his mum's home was on fire.
The 21-year-old carer said: "When I saw the flames I started panicking thinking my mum and the five children were in the house. I came out, but I couldn't see anything at first. Then the wind cleared and I could see the flames shooting through the roof. The oxygen tanks then blew up inside the house and it all went up in flames. The house is completely destroyed, but I'm pleased everyone was out of the house and is OK."
Alan Gilson, incident commander from Torquay fire station, was in charge of the six crews at the scene.
He said: "We were told that one adult and five children were possibly inside the house. That was our first consideration. We soon found out that the house was empty, but the fire was well alight and threatened to take hold in the adjacent houses.
"We evacuated them as a precaution, but thanks to the hard work and effort of our crews, the houses on either side only suffered smoke damage in the loft space.
"It was a difficult job and flames were coming out of the roof through the windows. It was like a jet engine.
"At one point we thought it might even spread to the whole block, but we managed to keep it under control."
Watch manager Gary Judge, from Torquay's green watch, was also at the scene. He said: "It was a serious fire. It was a very big incident."
Fire investigator George Setter said: "I believe the fire started in the fridge freezer. They have various components within them which can catch fire.
"There wasn't a working smoke detector in the house. Although there wasn't anybody in the property at the time some sometimes a smoke detector can alert neighbours or passers by.
"When crews arrived it was already a fully developed fire."