A seven-year-old boy has left his family homeless after he accidentally TORCHED their flat while playing with a lighter.
Little Riley Stevens set fire to a cushion when he found his mum’s lighter hidden on top of the fridge while looking for confiscated toys.
By the time mum Charlotte Hawksworth realised they had no choice but to run for safety and leave the flat to be ravaged by fire.
Every wall in the once-immaculate council flat was blackened by the thick smoke which destroyed all her furniture and belongings.
Heartbreaking video footage shows the sofa was reduced to a charred lump, wallpaper burned off the walls and the paint melted from the ceiling.
Charlotte, 24, is now sleeping on her dad’s sofa with Riley, her other son Tyler, five, and her four-month-old baby daughter.
Now the detainee custody officer – who didn’t have home insurance – has spoken out to warn other mums.
Charlotte, from Hounslow, west London, said: “I was devastated. The whole place was just gutted.
“Everything in the living room was completely gone. They hallway is badly damaged and the bedrooms are badly smoke damaged.
“There was nothing we could save. The kids lost all of their toys.
“I am absolutely devastated. We had just finished redecorating and were settling down with the baby at home.”
Charlotte was bathing her then newborn baby, Nylah Shah, in another room when Riley started the fire in October last year.
She only started smoking cigarettes again in January after quitting when pregnant with Nylah.
She had left a lighter on top of the fridge in the kitchen – where toys are often temporarily kept when the children have misbehaved.
She says Riley – who was was off school for an inset day – climbed on to a worktop in the hunt for toys but instead found the lighter.
Charlotte didn’t know Riley had set fire to the sofa cushion until he came to see her in the bathroom and started crying.
He told her he “was sorry” and said “you’ll be really angry”.
Charlotte said: “He was really crying so I went into the living room to see what he had done.
“The sofa was covered in flames and the whole room was filled with smoke.
“I just told the kids to get out. I knocked on doors on the way down but no one answered.”
She added: “I was petrified and the adrenaline took over.
“I wrapped the baby in a blanket and told the kids to run.
“I panicked and didn’t shut any doors behind me. I could have saved more.
“It was really scary. It could have gone so wrong and been so much worse. The worst thought were going through my mind.
“I feared the worst.”
Safely outside, Charlotte dialled 999 and firefighters arrived within minutes, but despite a speedy response, the flat was badly damaged in the blaze.
The flames incinerated the living room, destroyed the family’s belongings and the smoke made the flat – which Charlotte had recently spent £5,000 renovating – uninhabitable.
After the fire had been put out, Charlotte took the children to her 29-year-old partner Ashley Shah’s home where Riley confessed to starting the fire.
Charlotte says she isn’t angry at Riley.
“It’s not his fault,” she said.
“I take responsibility and I am filled with regret about it.
“Only if I didn’t start smoking again, only if I put the lighter somewhere safe and only if the kids were at school.
“I shouldn’t have left the lighter where I did. He said sorry and I’ve told him to never play with lighters.
“He knows how much we have lost. He doesn’t have a Playstation or an iPad now.
“But it could have been prevented and I feel guilty for that.
“It has had a massive impact on our lives. I’m living on a sofa with a newborn baby.
“It has been really hard for us.”
Charlotte, who also has a five-year-old son, Tyler Older, has been living at her dad’s with her three children since the fire left the family without a home.
She has had to borrow second-hand clothes from friends and family, and has been told it could be months until her flat is repaired.
Hounslow Council own the flat, she says, and Charlotte claims they have told her it will be months before the family can move back in.
Charlotte says she can’t afford to a new property privately in the mean time and is facing a long wait to get her home back.
The London Fire Brigade has been contacted for a statement.