Mum, 32, shares how husband ran into burning house to save pets in heatwave blaze

A house stands gutted following a devastating fire in Dagenham, London during the UK heatwave
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A family from Dagenham have been left in “absolute shock” after a fire tore through their home, leaving them with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Zoya Shumanska, 32, has recalled the horrific moment her house went up in flames after a blaze broke out in a park nearby and her husband’s heroic actions as he attempted to save their pets.

The incident took place on 19 July, involving 15 fire engines and 100 fire fighters on the hottest day of the year in the UK, with several houses destroyed in the neighbourhood.

Zoya stands with Lyuben and her two sons
Pictured: Zoya and Lyuben with their two sons. Jam Press/Zoya Shumanska

At the time, the mother-of-two was at the airport, on her way to Bulgaria to visit her parents when she received a call that her property was on fire.

Zoya’s husband, Lyuben Velov, 34, was already at the scene.

Watching their home burn, the dad was desperate to enter the house to save the family’s dog, Mia, and two cats, Muci and Michelle, which were trapped inside – but claims police held him back.

Ignoring their advice, in a panic, Lyuben went around the corner and jumped the fence to enter the burning house to get the animals out.

The family's cat who has not been found since the fire plays in the living room before the fire
Living room before the tragic fire. Jam Press/Zoya Shumanska

“All I could think only about was how my cats and dogs could be burning alive and I started crying,” Zoya told

“My husband decided to jump the fence from the flats and then jump into our garden when no one was looking.

“Two fire fighters jumped straight in after him and helped him break the door and save the dog.”

A thick plume of smoke is seen rising from the family's home
Footage captured of the fire by Zoya’s nanny shows plumes of smoke rising from the home. Jam Press/Zoya Shumanska

Although he was anxious to get the couple’s cats out too, the situation was too dangerous as fire fighters held him back.

Zoya said: “They asked him not to go and save anything else as he could lose his life, as the fire was already on the door step.

“He listened to them and they helped him climb the fence again and leave the property.

“I logged into my house camera from the airport and I could see how my car was on fire and the fences on the left.

“All I could think about was how absolutely everything was in flames.

“I was so shocked that I left my bags in front of the gate screen and went to the boarding gate without my bags and holding only my kids.”

Fire rips through the property leaving behind a smoking shell
The horrific aftermath of the fire. Jam Press/Zoya Shumanska

Zoya had to board her flight to Bulgaria with her two sons, aged two and seven, not knowing what was left of her family home.

She later found out that the blaze had taken everything and that her two cats were still nowhere to be found.

Zoya said: “We lost everything; photos, albums, hard drives, laptops, documents, our clothes, some savings, jewellery, my car.

Firefighters attend the scene of the blaze
Fire services attended the devastating blaze. Jam Press/Zoya Shumanska

“My husband has been left only with the clothes on him and his car.

“He even lost his IDs and passports.

“I managed to save three bags of clothes which are my kids’ summer clothes and some of mine [as we had it with us on the trip].

“Everything else burned, unfortunately I found out that even my fish in the pond are most likely to have died because of the fire.

“The firefighters advised us that there were no dead cats in the whole fire, however we are still looking for them.”

The family's black and white cat Muci who has been missing since the fire
Zoya and Lyuben’s cats Muci who has not been found since the fire. Jam Press/Zoya Shumanska

Zoya, who works as an accountant, is currently staying in Bulgaria while Lyuben remains in London.

He is visiting his family’s destroyed home every day with the hopes of finding their two cats.

The family's cat Michelle who has been missing since the fire.
Zoya and Lyuben’s cats Michelle who has not been found since the fire. Jam Press/Zoya Shumanska

The mum said: “As long as we are alive, fit and in a good health, everything is possible.

“I am very positive that we will manage to get through this together, as a family and become even stronger!

“As I said we are very lucky that we have very good friends who support us and give us strength!

“I am also very lucky that my kids and I are with my family in Bulgaria and my kids are not witnessing what has happened.

“I had written in my community Facebook group the morning after the fire, asking people to let me know if they spot my cats anywhere and I have received a great support ever since.

“There are people going out every day to look for my cats and giving me an update.”

Since the fire, the family have been looking for places to rent while their home gets rebuilt.