A devastated single mum has been left with nothing after her house was destroyed by a fatal fire in her neighbour’s home – and has criticised the council for refusing to help her find somewhere else to live.

Maria De Vita, 29, lived in Jasmine Crescent, Princes Risborough, but her house was condemned after a fire – which killed her neighbour – broke out next door and destroyed all her belongings.

Firefighters and police were called in the early hours of May 15 to the house fire, but the male occupant sadly died.

Maria and her two daughters, aged seven and eight, have now been forced to sleep on friends’ sofas after they “lost everything” in the blaze – including sentimental belongings that cannot be replaced.

She said: “Initially we thought I would return to the house within four weeks after having it professionally cleaned but it has been condemned. The adjoining wall has to be knocked down and redone, the roof has to be removed completely. All my things are destroyed.

“My children were asleep in their room when the fire happened. It was terrifying.”

Describing the horrifying events of that night, Maria said: “I was downstairs at the time and heard what I thought was a glass smashing. Because the next day was recycling day, I assumed it was someone putting their bins out. It was actually the pressure of the heat smashing the windows of the house next door.

“Three or four minutes later I heard pounding on my door. I was scared so I put the chain on the door and opened it and another neighbour told me to wake the kids up and get out. She had a blanket waiting for the girls and we had to move away, the smoke was so bad.

“The fire kept spreading. I had to make sure I was with my children as far away as possible. They were terrified and they still are - any mention of the word fire upsets them.”

Maria says Wycombe District Council have refused to help her and her children find somewhere else to live, arguing that it is down to her landlord to find her a place to stay.

The family has been staying with Maria’s friend, 27-year-old Miryam Taylor, who is angry at the council for not helping.

She said: “The landlord is trying to be as helpful as possible but he is annoyed at the council too. He owns the house that burned down as well as Maria’s house and he has more than enough on his plate already. There is a limit to someone’s kindness. The council has a duty of care towards her.

“She has lost everything. She is a single mum of two children on benefits and the council is treating her like vermin.

“The furniture, bedding and beds, a dining table, is all ruined. There is no salvaging it. She has nothing left but the council says she needs to pull the money together to buy new stuff.”

Maria and her children decided to make a stand outside WDC’s offices in Queen Victoria Road on Thursday – bringing their few salvaged belongings with them.  

Catherine Spalton, a spokesman for the council said: “We're sympathetic to Maria's situation and understand that her letting agent is actively looking for alternative accommodation for her.

“We work really hard to try and prevent homelessness in all cases. Being provided with temporary accommodation from the council is a last resort when all other accommodation options have been exhausted.”