Woman and baby rescued from blazing homes

A woman trapped in a burning house was rescued by fire fighters who pulled her to safety through an upstairs window, while a grandmother next door climbed through a kitchen window to rescue a baby.

Three fire crews raced to a row of terraced houses in York Road, Stevenage after the alarm was raised shortly after 3pm on Tuesday afternoon by a neighbour.

On arrival they found the rear of two adjoining buildings well alight up to the roof, a shed and fence on fire and a Mitsubishi 4x4 ablaze.

The occupier of one of the houses, Andrew Searle, 53, had managed to get out. But his wife Caroline, in her 30s, had gone upstairs to rescue the family dog. Finding she had become trapped by thick smoke rising through the burnt out back door, she took the dog into the bathroom at the front of the house, blocked the bottom of the door with a towel, opened the window and called for help.

Stevenage Green Watch commander Adam Lacock, whose crew were first on the scene, diverted crew members tackling the fire at the rear to the front where they climbed a ladder to the window and carried Mrs Searle to safety. They were unable to get the dog.


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Mr Searle said it all happened very quickly. “The shed caught fire somehow, it caught my jeep. It went up so quick. It came in through a vent in the wall.

“My wife was upstairs with the dog. They got her out of the window but they couldn’t get the dog out. We had to wait until they got up there to see if the dog was still alive.”

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Miraculously, not only did the dog survive, but also two cats trapped in the house.

Cmdr Lacock said the fire was threatening to take hold in the roof and both houses were smoke-logged. “The back doors of both houses were burnt away and fire was starting to get into the roof. Immediately we tried to get some water on and prevent any fire spread. We checked round the property and the lady was at the front bathroom window. We got a ladder up to the bathroom window and managed to get her out.”

Mrs Searle was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation by fire crew until paramedics arrived shortly after. She was taken to Lister Hospital for further treatment.

Before the emergency services arrived, 63-year-old grandmother Flor De Peralta was looking after her 22-month-old grandson next door, when she smelt burning. She went to look outside the front of the house for the cause, but the wind caught the door, locking her out and leaving her grandson trapped inside.

Her daughter Roselle, 38, a nurse at Lister Hospital who had gone to pick up her two other children, aged five and seven from school at the time of the fire, said her mother saved her son.

“She had to get a big stone and got on it to climb through the kitchen window. She managed to get in and pick him up and get out. She said she would have smashed her way in if she had to.

“I can’t stop thinking what if my mum couldn’t get in, or what if she had been sleeping. It was such a shock. I am so relieved that my mother and baby were out.”

The fire service said the cause of the fire was accidental and began in a garden shed which abutted Mr Searle’s rented home.

“With these timber sheds, people keep flammables in there – paints, barbecue fuel, liquids – these can go up with radiated heat,” Cmdr Lacock said.

He urged anyone with unwanted flammables in sheds to dispose of them safely.

He added: “Both properties did have smoke detectors. It’s really important that people have working detectors fitted. There are still people in Stevenage who do not have them. We were able to get there quickly because of the alarm. If we had not got there so quickly the fire would have got hold in the roof and that is very difficult for us to deal with.”

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