When Cape Town City Ballet’s principal dancer, Thomas Thorne, received a call from his partner saying their house was on fire, he thought it must be a mistake.
Maybe it is the house next door or maybe it’s the neighbours braaiing, he thought, but when his neighbour confirmed it to him with the words “you have to get home now”, the only thing he could think of was to save his three beloved dachshunds, Molly, Lilly and Perry.
Thomas spent the afternoon of Sunday April 3 at a birthday party in Cape Town, while his partner, Wes Thorne, was overseas.
When he left their Oakburn Road home in Llandudno earlier that day, there was no sign of the nightmare he was about to experience.
A few hours later, he found himself rushing home with close friends, Daniel Szybkowski and Rosamund Ford, to find the home that he and his partner has leased for the past eight years, engulfed by flames.
“I arrived home at about 10.30pm and it was chaos. The fire services told me there was about half an hour left before the entire house would be engulfed by flames.
“They assisted me to go inside to get a few personal items like passports and other important documents.
“Fortunately Wes is very organised and all our documents were in a case so it was just a matter of pick up and go,” he said.
The inside of the house was extremely hot, walls were pulsating from the heat and water was dripping from the ceiling.
“When you watch your house go up in flames, something changes inside you. I was so grateful to have Daniel and Ros there with me,” he said.
Then the search for his dogs began. Molly and Lilly, the two females, were safe, but Perry, the male, seemed to be missing.
“He must have escaped when firefighters broke down the gate to gain entry into the property,” he said.
Thomas ran down the road calling Perry and soon neighbours and community members started to help.
“I was panicking. One of the fire fighters said Perry might have lost consciousness from smoke inhalation and he might still be in the house. All I could think of was to find Perry,” he said.
He said he was extremely grateful to the community of Llandudno and his neighbours who helped him search for Perry and supported him throughout the entire ordeal.
About an hour later Perry was found on the other end of Llandudno.
“It’s during times like this that you realise how much the community cares,” he said.
Thomas and the dogs spent a few days with neighbour Sara James while looking for a new home.
Since then the couple has moved into another Llandudno house on a short-term basis as the house is on the market.
“Most of our furniture were destroyed by the fire and we miss our old house and the garden and the view.
“Finding pet-friendly accommodation in Llandudno is difficult and we were very lucky to have found this place. We are also very grateful to Sara for helping us during this time,” he said.
Thomas said it was strange how something like the fire can change you.
“I don’t stress about the small things anymore because it can be destroyed so easily. Life throws challenges at you because things need to change.
“We are still in a transition period and it is only later that you realise how many little things you have to replace such as cosmetics and kitchenware – things you never think about.
“We had a good wine collection and that too was destroyed,” he said.
But for now, Thomas is just grateful to have his loved ones in his life and for his successful career as a dancer because everything else can be replaced.
Fire and Rescue service’s Liezl Moodie said four fire engines, one rescue vehicle and two water tankers were deployed to the fire in Oakburn Road that Sunday.
Resources were dispatched from Hout Bay, Simon’s Town, Roeland Street and Sea Point Fire stations.
“The cause of the fire was an electrical short circuit igniting insulation,” she said.