Clacton: Investigation continues into cause of fatal house fire
- Credit: Archant
NEIGHBOURS of a family left trapped in their home as a blaze engulfed the property last night told of hearing their cries for help.
A man died and a woman and baby boy had a miraculous escape when a fire ripped through the terraced house in Stanley Road, Clacton, yesterday.
Neighbours desperately rushed to save the family when the flames took hold just before 10.30am, spreading rapidly through the two-storey property.
Before firefighters arrived, two neighbours had managed to scramble on top of an adjoining garage, smash open an upstairs bathroom window and drag the woman and child to safety by pitching a ladder to the side of the building.
Fire chiefs think the man had tried to escape from the ground floor but was overcome and died at the scene. They said that all three people would likely have died if not for the bravery of neighbours.
One witness said: “I heard her screaming ‘Help! Help! Help!’. Everyone ran out to do what they could. I saw her and the baby pulled out. The baby didn’t seem too bad – not as black with smoke as the woman was.”
Fire crews from Clacton, Frinton and Weeley arrived at the scene and began to tackle the flames, but within minutes the property was completely engulfed in flames – the ground floor and most of the first floor were destroyed.
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The house was so badly damaged that an Urban Search and Rescue team was called to help strengthen the internal floors before the man’s body could be recovered.
The RSPCA was also called after six two-week-old kittens were found alive inside the garage, accessible through a door inside the house.
Assistant divisional officer for Essex Fire and Rescue Service Paul Nash, the incident commander, said: “We were called at about 10.30am to reports of a fire at a house. Upon arrival, crews were confronted with a serious fire in the ground floor and first floor of a mid-terrace two storey house.
“Crews were informed that one adult female and a child had been rescued by members of the public from a first-floor front window. However, there was still an adult male believed to be unaccounted for.
“Two crews of two wore breathing apparatus and tried to locate the casualty and extinguish the fire. A young adult male was located in the ground floor and was deemed to have died at the scene.
“The fire investigation is ongoing with two specialist officers and with Essex Police.
“I would like to make it known that if not for the voluntary actions of neighbours, who got onto the garage and smashed the window with a brick, we could be looking at three fatalities. I give full credit to them.”
Mr Nash said that the blaze involved “a lot of fire loading” – or combustible materials inside the home – but said it was too early to determine a cause.
Patricia Stewart, who lives directly behind the property, said: “I was in the garden and thought someone was having a bonfire. I looked up and saw the flames and ran in to tell my son and his partner to call for help. By that time the flames had engulfed the whole building. It took hold so quickly.
“Someone said they could hear a person screaming that they couldn’t get out. I heard the mum was taken to hospital unconscious, that the baby was covered in smoke and that someone had died.
“However it happened, it’s a tragedy.”