Blaze... Joan Shannon lost her home, her beloved pets and her husband’s ashes in a devastating fire that engulfed her home in Enfield earlier this month.

‘I just stood and watched as my life went up in smoke’

An Enfield woman who lost her home, her pets and her husband's ashes in a devastating fire has told of her “horrendous” ordeal and “gratitude” for the community who have been rallying around her.

Joan Shannon says she is blessed that neither she nor her two teenage sons were in the house when the blazing inferno took hold but described being “heartbroken” at the loss of her two dogs and cat.

Joan originally from Capetown in South Africa is also distraught at losing her late husband, Bernard's ashes that were placed in a small wooden casket in her bedroom following his death from cancer in 2012 at just 37-years-old.

Although covered by insurance, the mum-of-two is unable to return to her home she has lived in for 20 years due to the extensive smoke and fire damage until extensive work is carried out on the property.

“The fire completely destroyed the house,” said Joan. There are still four walls there but nothing else,” she added.

“We have lost everything.”

“The two children were born during our time living in the house and my husband passed away in the bed in my arms.

“I kept his ashes in a special little wooden casket in the bedroom but they have been destroyed now too.”

Joan describes the morning leading up to the fire.

“I was downstairs the whole day, I didn't smell a thing, there was nothing unusual. At 1pm I went upstairs and had a shower. My son and I left the house at 2pm for Maynooth to do some shopping. We have a ring alarm so at 3.08pm one of my cats came out the front door at the cat flap and you could hear the fire alarms going off.

“The smoke alarm was in the hall and the hall door would have been closed so my dogs had probably gone at that stage, the fire had already taken hold to get under the door and up to the smoke alarm.

“The only consolation is that there was no one in the house at the time. My youngest son and I left at 2pm that day, by the time we arrived back at 4pm the house had taken hold and the place was up in flames.”

Joan described the dramatic moment she tried to rescue her animals from the flames:

“My neighbour phoned me at 3.30pm and said we can hear the fire alarm going off in your house and we think we can see smoke.

“I arrived at 4pm and I had three adults pulling me back because I was going into the house to find my animals. The fire brigade arrived at 4.15pm. We had three fire engines and the fire chief arrive.

“You could see the fire rumbling in the lounge and then we went around to the back patio doors and it was just absolutely toxic so within two hours of me going and coming back my house was destroyed.

“I just stood and watched my life going up in smoke,” said Joan.

“My eldest dog, Missy, a Collie was five and we had her since she was four-days-old. The Rottweiler Cross, Loki had just been neutered and he was only 14-months-old, he was still a pup. Three cats survived, two of them are with a volunteer with My Lovely Horse Rescue.”

A number of irreplaceable items were also lost in the blaze that ravaged the family home in the Glen Abhainn estate.

“I had a big Mexican Pine dresser in the lounge and I had a picture called Dream Cottage that was hand embroidered by my grandmother in 1946 and that's gone,” said Joan.

“And heartbreakingly my wedding album has also been destroyed,” she added.

Joan says she feels fortunate to have recovered some important items from the fire including sentimental jewellery belonging to her late husband.

“I had a safe, the fire brigade actually managed to get that out for me which had my title deeds, my passport, my husband's wedding ring and necklace that I was planning to give to my boys so that's something.”

The Capetown native says she has “no idea” what caused the devastating blaze.

“They can't narrow it down definitively to any one thing. I lost my husband 12 years ago to cancer and it's just me and the two boys so I am always so cautious and switch everything off because I am on my own. Even if I have a fire lit, I would make sure it was out before I went to bed and there was a fire guard in front of it.”

The mum of two has praised the community who she says has rallied around the family in their time of need.

“The whole community has come together,” said Joan. “ It kind of restores your faith in humankind when you see that kind of generosity and compassion and care. Even Trim Gardai came out to us with bags of non-perishable foods.

“The first night we stayed in the hotel, we walked in exhausted with bags and we didn’t even know what was in the bags. When we looked there were clothes for the boys, the school in Maynooth even put school uniforms together. People have been amazing.”

A fundraising page called ‘Great Neighbours we want to support’ has been created on the GoFundMe website to support the family.