Hampstead fire: Couple with baby tell of narrow escape from top floor flat
PUBLISHED: 13:45 24 November 2017 | UPDATED: 13:45 24 November 2017
A couple with a baby told today how they narrowly cheated death after escaping from their smoke-filled top floor flat during the fatal fire in Daleham Gardens.
Rami Khatib, 32, escaped with his fiancee Indre, 29, and 14-month-old daughter Reina after neighbours raised the alarm at 1.45am.
The hairdresser believes that his family was partly saved by the fact that the couple had stayed up watching the Netflix sci-fi series Stranger Things.
“We were watching Netflix at midnight and I was really tired, and wanted to go to bed. But instead I said, ‘one more episode’, and went to bed at 1am. It was a gamechanger.”
Rami said the family had spent “a lovely day” at Winter Wonderland, before later settling down to watch TV.
He said the late night TV marathon “Meant Indre wasn’t in a deep sleep when the banging on the doors started. She woke me up at around 1.45am saying she’d heard banging and there was a fire. I told her she was dreaming and to go back to sleep, but she opened the door and there was smoke outside,” he said.
When Rami, a hairdresser at Sammour Kamil on Boundary Road, realised that there was a fire, he ran out of the building barefoot in his underwear.
“I looked out of the window and heard shouting outside the building. Especially after Grenfell, I know that you need to run. It’s no good staying up there. I didn’t have time to panic. Because I had a baby I thought ‘I’ve got to do this for her’.
“I grabbed Reina, and put a blanket over her. I thought I’d rather get out with injuries than stay up there. I then ran through the smoke, which got thicker as I got further down, but because I have lived there for 12 years I know the stairway.”
Once the family joined other residents outside the building, the trauma hit Rami. “I thought, ‘I’ve just escaped death against the odds.’ I was pretty much crying,” he said.
Rami and his family then sat on the pavement watching their flat burning, powerless to stop it.
He said: “Because the fire brigade got there quite quickly, I thought my flat could have been rescued. But because the fire moved so fast, they couldn’t. Within minutes it had shot up to the roof, and become uncontrollable.
“At one point, I looked at the building and the only window that still had yellow flames in was my flat.”
At the time, residents didn’t know whether Magdelena Fink, who died in the fire, was in her flat as they believed she often went away. Fire crews asked for directions to get into her flat, but she later died. Rami believes that if his wife hadn’t realised the alarm when she did, his family could have suffered the same fate.
“When I see pictures it’s disturbing because if I was up there two minutes longer, I would have died.”
The family ran out of the building with only the clothes they were wearing and have no insurance. Camden Council, who they rented their flat from, is paying for a hotel room on Finchley Road while they try to find them accommodation. Council insurers are seeing if they can get any money to replace what they lost in the fire.
Despite their ordeal, he’s still feeling positive. “People keep telling me I’ve lost everything, but I escaped death within minutes. I feel like a lottery winner,” he said.
For Rami and Indre, the fire may also affect their plans to tie the knot “We’d like to get married next year but we’ll see how things go.”
He paid tribute to his neighbours across the third floor who woke his wife up, meaning they could escape.
“I feel we owe our lives to the ladies opposite who banged on our doors. You would hope everyone would do it, but they did. They saved our lives.”