18 evacuated in blaze drama

A YOUNG couple have told how they frantically passed five of their children to safety through a window after a fire broke out in their block of flats.Nicholas and Nicola Oxley were woken by smoke billowing through the letter box of their home in Clacton yesterday.

By Annie Davidson

A YOUNG couple have told how they frantically passed five of their children to safety through a window after a fire broke out in their block of flats.

Nicholas and Nicola Oxley were woken by smoke billowing through the letter box of their home in Clacton yesterday.

After dialling 999 to alert the fire brigade Mr and Mrs Oxley woke their children who were “crying and distressed” when they realised what was happening.

Courtney, eight, Nicholas, six, Katie, four, Bradley, two, and four-month-old Charlie were all handed to Mrs Oxley's mother who took them to safety at her nearby flat.

The fire broke out in the communal entrance to the block of flats in Langham Drive at 7am.

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Mr and Mrs Oxley's ten-year-old daughter Tina was staying the night with family members elsewhere in Langham Drive and was not involved in the drama.

Mrs Oxley, 26, said: “We were all asleep and woke up at about 7am and black smoke was pouring in.

“I phoned the fire brigade and they said to stay inside and not to try and alert the neighbours as they would be frightened and come out of their flats.

“The smoke was absolutely black.” Mrs Oxley added she was “terrified.”

She and her 21-year-old husband handed their crying children out of the window of their ground floor flat to her mother who took them to safety at her home nearby.

Firefighters evacuated 18 people after extinguishing the blaze, which started in a rubbish bin, with one hose reel.

Ambulance crews took a family from the first floor of the flats to Colchester General Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

A couple and their three children, aged five, three and 18 months, were treated and later discharged.

Resident Paul Preston, 49, and his son, James, live on the second floor of the flats and were led to safety by fire crews.

Mr Preston was treated in hospital for a burnt throat and smoke inhalation but released after treatment and was recovering at home.

James, 17, an A level student at Colbayns High School in Clacton, said his father became aware of the fire first and woke him up. They then waited for fire crews to put the blaze out.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Assistant Divisional Officer, Andy Butcher, said: “It started in some rubbish that had been left in the stairway and that created a small fire which created a lot of smoke.

“The smoke damage was extensive and went through the whole building.

“This meant that firefighters wearing breathing apparatus went into the building and led all 18 people in the flats to safety, six of those people were taken to hospital suffering with smoke inhalation.”

Police have appealed for anyone with information about the fire to contact Clacton CID on 01255 221312.

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