Pensioner tells of escape from home fire

A PENSIONER has spoken of a lucky escape after a huge fire took hold of his house in the early hours of the morning while his ill wife and her carer slept.

Anthony Bond

A PENSIONER has spoken of a lucky escape after a huge fire took hold of his house in the early hours of the morning while his ill wife and her carer slept.

Merlin Channon, 84, discovered the fire in the dining room of his large detached Tudor house in Church Street, Eye, after waking at about 2.30am last Tuesday.

The former director of music at Woolverstone Hall School managed to escape to safety with his 84-year-old wife Ann - who is seriously ill with dementia - and her South African carer. The fire soon spread and caused extensive damage to his home of 36 years.

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“I was sat awake in bed at around 2.30am and I tried to put the lights on in the bedroom but they didn't work,” said Dr Channon. “I went outside and had a look at the fuse box outside the bedroom and everything was okay and so I went downstairs and opened the dining room door and it was just full of smoke. I had to shut the door again because the smoke was going straight into my eyes and it was extremely uncomfortable.

“I went to get my wife's carer, because my wife has dementia which is at a very serious stage, and we phoned the fire service. They were marvellous and within 10 minutes they had arrived.”

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Dr Channon, who is the president of the Ipswich Bach Choir and founder of the Eye Bach Choir, said the trio are very fortunate to have escaped without injury.

“It is only that I woke up in the middle of the night to do some work otherwise heavens knows what might have happened,” he said. “I am very thankful that I did wake up. We were very lucky indeed.”

More than 60 firefighters from across Suffolk battled the blaze which spread to the roof of the house. Church Street is still closed due to work being carried out at the house.

Dr Channon, who has one daughter and two grandchildren, is now staying at a cottage close to his home which he has been given use of by friends. His wife, who was taken to West Suffolk Hospital following the blaze, is currently at Christies Care in Saxmundham.

Dr Channon, who is unsure if he has lost any belongings, believes it could be at least a year before he and his wife can occupy the five-bedroom house again. And he is extremely grateful for the support he has received from the community.

“So many people came to help and everybody in Eye has been marvellous,” he said. “I was just very impressed by the fire brigade, the police and the ambulance service. I am full of admiration for them.

“It has been an extraordinary experience, it is difficult to explain. All I can say is that I am very impressed with the help that I have received from neighbours and friends. It is just a challenge and we will see how we go from here.”

A fire investigation into the blaze has concluded that it started by accident. Evidence shows there was nothing suspicious about the circumstances surrounding the fire and it is thought to have started in an electrical intake box in the dining room.

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