This happened to me years ago.
I had just got a new house help, whom I was putting through many things, one of which was how to use the gas cooker.
But after a few days, she just couldn’t learn how to use the cooker, for instance, she would usually leave the knobs on not realising which knob turned on which burner and so many times, I would see her jump when a burner caught fire from the other burners she had managed to light.
I knew it was dangerous to keep allowing this to happen, so I told her not to cook anything unless I was around and I also bought a small kerosene stove for her to use. At least to cook a few things before I came back from work.
Then one day something happened.
It was a Friday and I went to bed around 11.30pm or there about. My house help had also gone to bed. My three kids were asleep too. They were at that time, 1, 3 and 5years old.
The 1 year old slept in our room and my husband hadn’t returned at the time I went to bed. He would usually use his own keys to open the door whenever he came back.
I’m not sure how long I slept but I was awoken by my house help screaming “mummy, mummy, fire o, fire, fire…” and she ran out.
I jumped up from bed and immediately began to cough; I didn’t put on the light because we always slept with a blue light on, so I basically could see my way around the bedroom.
But as soon as I opened my bedroom door, the entire sitting room was filled with smoke.
I quickly pulled back the door shut, picked my 1 year old baby and ran out of the bedroom to get my other children.
I couldn’t see well, so I was screaming their names and calling also for my house help to get them for me. At this time, there was so much smoke, I was choking, and even my baby was crying and coughing.
Ok, let me explain the layout of our house at that time. It’s a block of 4 three bedroom flats. Ours was on the ground floor.
The main entrance opened to the sitting room. The kitchen was right opposite the main entrance. To your left, was my room, and the next was my children’s room while the next was my house help’s room. The rooms were in a semi-circle. So the nearest room to the kitchen of course, was my house help’s.
So as soon as I came out of my room, I saw the fire was from the kitchen. Though the door was locked, I could see white smoke swirling out from the cracks at the top and bottom of the door and even the sides…smoke would find its way through any crack.
I had to get my children out, quickly. Even though I was screaming their names, calling for my house help, no body responded until I fumbled my way to their room and pushed it in.
With one hand holding my baby, I used the other to drag my 3 year old and five year old. I was still calling for my house help to come help me but I didn’t realise she had run off!
My three year old was…I don’t know, she just won’t move, she was scared and fighting me off. So slipped out of my grasp as I rushed out outside with the first two; I knew I had to go back for her but needed to get the first two to safety.
Thankfully, our door wasn’t locked, that told me my house help had left the house. Thankfully too, neighbours had come out because as soon as I opened the door, one or two grabbed my children and took them away to safety.
But you see, fire feeds on oxygen, by opening the door, the breeze that came in fed the fire in the kitchen, so before I even got myself to go back for my child, the kitchen door just exploded, fell forward and the entire flat was on fire.
Fire or not, I was going back into the flames for my child!
But as I turned, even me, I stepped back. It was hot as hell, my nightie turned crisp and I began to scream for my daughter. People were pulling me back but I kept screaming that my daughter was still in the house.
As neighbors were pulling me back, I was struggling to free myself to enter the burning house for my child. They dragged me back because except you are Shadrach or Abednego, there was no way anyone would walk into that fire and come out! No way!
But out of the crowd of people that were gathered. Some were already even pouring water into the fire to douse it, out of that crowd, one man came…he helped me and told me he would get my child out of the house. I begged him to please do so. I was just screaming and crying for my daughter, still in the house.
He went into the house and he brought out my daughter!
I don’t know how he did it.
I don’t know what he did to get her. I just know my daughter was brought out alive from the burning house!
So here’s the thing. First off, my house help must have started the fire; I’m guessing she used the gas cooker to cook something overnight when I went to bed…maybe she forgot, maybe she tried to turn off the knobs and …I don’t know. She started the fire and couldn’t put it out, which is why I think she came to wake me up when it got out of hand and she ran away.
Secondly, when we eventually put out the fire, firefighters came…when everything was almost gone, thankfully the other flats only had soot everywhere, and none caught fire. When I was recounting to my husband how a man helped save our daughter, he asked me to point the man out so he could go thank him…I couldn’t find the man. I asked a few people who were also out that night if they knew the name of the man who saved my daughter, they said they didn’t see the person I described!
I was at first confused because, I spoke to the man right in front of them when he offred to go get my daughter. They all said they didn’t see anyone that my daughter was with me when I came out!
My daughter wasn’t with me!
But you know, people said, I was traumatized so I was imagining things. I didn’t imagine it!
I took two children out, the kitchen door fell forward, fire engulfed the house and I couldn’t go get my daughter!
Nobody saw the man but when I asked my daughter, a few days after she said, “A kind man, a kind man bought me to you…”
She’s grown today and doesn’t even remember the fire incident.
But people say, she was too young to be believed but you see, me and my daughter are not mad. We were saved by an angel!
(Series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)