Devon man loses everything in fire weeks after cancer diagnosis

Alex's belongings were completely destroyed. Credit: BPM Media

A 66-year-old man watched his home and belongings go up in flames just weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.

Alex Davidson had been working on his motorbike in a barn in Whimple when the blaze suddenly broke out and quickly spread.

Not only did it destroy most of the barn, it also engulfed his nearby camper van, which was his home.

The 66-year-old, who escaped the fire on November 28 with minor injuries, has been left with only the clothes he was wearing and is currently being temporarily housed by East Devon District Council in a hotel in Exmouth.

He will stay there until permanent accommodation becomes available.

Alex, who works as a banksman at EMS Waste Services in Exeter, recalled: "I have been a motorcycle mechanic by trade for 52 years and had put a tray underneath one of my motorbikes to catch the petrol and then I put the tray on the workbench.

'My hair and arms were on fire'

"The fire brigade told me they think as the air was so dense because of the storm we had the day before that instead of the fumes from the tray evaporating it was like a vapour and there was a flashpoint of fire.

"I tried everything I could but I couldn't stop the fire. My hair and arms were on fire as I had petrol on them so I had to put myself out first.

"Luckily I'm not the panicky type so I didn't have any burns, but my hair is a bit shorter on one side.

"I ran straight back into the barn and tried to put the fire out but the petrol tank kept feeding the flames and the heat was so intense so I called the fire brigade."

The barn was destroyed along with Alex's camper van that was parked nearby. Credit: BPM Media

Alex lived in a camper van because he works for nine months of the year and then spends the rest of the year travelling abroad in it.

He said: "As I am a single man and have never been married or had children, I work hard and save everything I can so that I can go travelling.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, I have been unable to do that recently so I had parked it up on a farm belonging to a friend of mine and used the barn as my workshop.

"I have lost everything I own. I'm stressed out like you would not believe. It's finished me off."

It is another blow for Alex following a recent diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Alex, who has also suffered from stomach problems since 2013, said: "Around 10 weeks ago I was diagnosed with aggressive stage 8 prostate cancer and it has already spread to my left hip.

"I can't start chemotherapy until they have sorted out the problem with my stomach. I have to go into hospital for a CT scan at some stage and they can't tell me any more at the moment.

"In the meantime, I've been put on really strong cancer tablets. I don't know what my life expectancy will be; it could be six months or six years."

A fundraiser has been launched for Alex, and thanks to the support he has received from friends, work colleagues, the local community and the council, he is starting to get back on his feet again.

'I can't pretend to be happy when I'm not'

Alex, who has no family in Devon, said: "I have been so lucky because people have been absolutely fantastic. They have given me clothing and been so lovely. The council has also been absolutely brilliant.

"I will be staying in the hotel until December 23 and the council will try and sort me somewhere else to stay over Christmas.

"I have had a couple of invites for Christmas but I can't face Christmas this year. I can't pretend to be happy when I'm not and I would hate to spoil anyone's Christmas.

"Once I get somewhere to live that will take some pressure off me."

The fundraiser for Alex has so far raised more than £1,100. Credit: BPM Media

Alex was initially unaware a fundraiser had been launched because he doesn't use the internet.

It was only when colleague Chloe Hammond told him she had set it up that he realised how much support he has. So far it has raised more than £1,110.

He said: "I'm extremely honoured that she has done this for me off her own back. I love her to bits for it.

"I have been a very lucky man all of my life so I can't believe what's recently happened to me. I had lots of plans but they will just have to be put on hold for now."