‘Everything is gone in four hours, it’s devastating’ - but Susan says her family is determined to re-build after Thorney home and business is destroyed in blaze
- Credit: Archant
A week after a blaze destroyed her home, family business and left her husband Melvin in hospital following a heart attack, Susan Dolby remains admirably positive.
The couple, who were left with just the clothes they stood up in after fire destroyed their house and wedding car business on Wayside at The Causeway, Thorney, should be celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary and a birthday this weekend.
Instead, they will be picking up the pieces of their shattered lives and working out how to trace around 200 couples who booked cars that were lost in the blaze.
“All our lives work is gone”, said Mrs Dolby, who has been staying at her sister’s following the fire.
“There are no words really that describe how you feel.
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“At one point I couldn’t breathe properly, because you’re in such a panic but there’s nothing you can do to stop it or help it.
“Everything is just gone in four hours. It’s devastating.
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“You’re a bit numb as well so you think, ‘this can’t be happening’.
“It was so quick - from when it caught fire to when it actually started the burning the house. It seemed like a matter of minutes.
“I didn’t see any of the cars burning because as soon as the roof started collapsing I took the two dogs in the car and up the road.
“I could not stay and watch it burn, but my husband did. I think that is probably what made him have the heart attack, because the cars were his life.
“The dogs were shut inside so my husband smashed the front door in and we got two out, but little Daisy, the Yorkie, was trapped inside. Melvin went in a couple of times to try and get her.
“Eventually, she came out on her own. She was very badly burned, all her feet are bandaged up but she’s still wagging her tail.
“We can’t wait for the house to be pulled down so we can start again, and from now, it’s onwards and upwards.
“We can’t get any lower because the worst has already happened,” she added.
Susan met Melvin 49 years ago when he was a coffin maker and she worked at Woolworths.
The fire has prompted an outpouring of support from strangers, said the couple’s daughter Alysson Wagg, who has been overwhelmed by the offers of help including two donation pages on social media and a drop in centre at Muddy Paws in Eye.
“I just think it’s amazing that someone who doesn’t know me has done this,” said Susan Dolby.
“It just proves that there are nice people in the world.”
Her daughter, Tracey Clarke, added: “The support is amazing.
“Material goods can be replaced but memories can’t - old photographs, personal items.
“To lose everything is devastating.”
Melvin and Susan Dolby’s home and classic car business was engulfed in flames on February 8 causing an estimated £500,000 worth of damage - with fire crews only able to save the couple’s caravan from the blaze.
Thieves later stole the 2007 twin axle Bessacar caravan when Susan went to visit her husband in hospital.
She said: “The thieves can’t have a lot of morals. I don’t know if we’ll get it back now but I don’t know if we want it back now.”
Their three dogs escaped the home alive but their Yorkshire terrier Daisy suffered severe burns to her legs and needs bandages changing every other day leaving them with a vet bill which has already tipped £1,000.
Their three ponies and chickens remain on site where the couple are installing a static caravan where they plan to live until their home can be rebuilt.
Melvin and Susan have three children; Allyson, 44, of Benwick, Tracey, 41, of Doddington and Ben, 31, who is in the RAF, as well as nine grandchildren.
To donate visit Donna Lewis’s Go Fund Me page or nurse Nicola Clements’ Just Giving page.
Mrs Dolby said: “I’ve been backwards and forwards to the hospital to see my husband twice most days.
“I’ve also been trying to sort the insurance out, clearing up what I could, seeing to the animals… that was until someone let the ponies out when they stole the caravan.”
Talking about how the family business grew, she said: “Melvin started small, buying a little black Austin, which we were going to go to 40s do’s with.
“It was just a hobby. He brought an Austin 12 6, to use for weddings.
“He wanted to build it up until he got a Rolls Royce – he got one and then he decided he needed another one. We wouldn’t have had room for anymore now.
“He’d not long had the last car – a Ford A – and it got booked out so much, he decided to buy another one.
“I said, ‘that is it. you can’t have anymore, there’s nowhere to put them’.
“He just loved doing it. He loved being with his cars - whether it was only polishing them or talking to the brides and groom and families.
“He has done some things for charities. We’ve got some terrific drivers who love the cars as much as he does. They’re just as devastated.
“But hopefully he can get a couple of cars and start again.
“He didn’t want to, but I’ve got him looking at ones for sale now.
“I have said he’s got to put the garage right at the bottom of the garden though – nowhere near the house.”