Family's anguish at being stranded in emergency accommodation, months after losing home to fire

  • Watch Rob Setchell's full report from Ashill.

Families who watched their houses burn down on the UK's hottest ever day have told ITV News how they are still living in emergency accommodation, three-and-a-half months on.

Matthew and Katie Bennett, as well as their three children, lost all their possessions after a wildfire devastated 12 homes in Ashill, near Swaffham in Norfolk, in July.

The Bennetts' home was one of those that was completely destroyed, as were priceless items and memories - including Mrs Bennett's wedding dress.

Since their lives were turned upside down on 19 July, the family of five have been put up in a one-bedroom holiday cottage.

The Bennetts revisit where their former home used to be. Credit: ITV News Anglia

With space at a premium, their children are having to sleep in the living room, and the family claim that their landlords, Victory Homes, have tried to continue charging them rent on their now demolished home.

"July 19 the house burnt down - and they still want us to pay rent," Mr Bennett told ITV News Anglia.

Mrs Bennett: "They said we need to pay rent two months later. It just makes you want to run away from it all. It's still our home here. It's just we've got nowhere to live. It's like existing but not living."

In a statement, Victory Homes said: "Tenants are still legally required to pay rent, even if they are in a temporary home.

"In the last few months, we've offered Mrs Bennett several properties to move into as a permanent home. Mrs Bennett has declined these offers and advised us of her preference to move into a new-build home in Necton.

"We've advised Mrs Bennett that her new home [in Necton] will be ready next year."

The spokesman added that the landlord understood its tenants had been through a "life-changing event" during the fires, and extended its condolences.

Drone footage of the fire in Ashill. Credit: Pink Spitfire Photography

Other families in the village are also struggling to rebuild their lives, with one woman, who escaped the wildfire with her daughter and dogs, telling ITV News that she is still waiting for insurance payouts.

In the face of such tragedy, the local community has rallied around those who lost everything, raising more than £40,000 and donating clothes.

"Everybody's concerned about everybody else," said Alan Ketteringham, chairman of Ashill Parish Council.

"We're now putting an emergency plan together and that's really drawing people together. We always have had a good community spirit, but this had drawn new people into that - and that's good."

Investigators from Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service recently admitted that they may never know exactly what started the fire, but they were able to rule out arson.

Widespread temperatures peaked at more than 40C at various places across the country as the UK grappled with an unprecedented July heatwave, with firefighters being drafted in from as far away as Newcastle and Liverpool to help the efforts in Ashill.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know