Video & Gallery: Neighbour saves family from inferno

JUST two chimney stacks are all that were left today of two homes after a huge blaze caused four people to flee for their lives.

Anthony Bond

JUST two chimney stacks are all that were left today of two homes after a huge blaze caused four people to flee for their lives.

Two families are homeless but lucky to be alive after a garage fire spread to the timber framed houses in the village of Waldringfield near Woodbridge.

Neighbour Chris Collins described how he ran to warn the homeowners of the impending inferno after he saw a Range Rover on fire in their garage which then turned into a fireball.


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Bystanders could only watch in horror as the fire raged from one house to another and then to a third house before setting on fire an electricity pylon.

Smoke was still rising from the ruins this morning following the blaze which was first spotted just after 7pm yesterday.

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The people who lived in the houses could not be found today but Mr Collins was the first person on the scene in Cliff Road after spotting the flames from his back garden.

He said: “I was standing in my garden and could see a very small fire. I thought somebody was having a bonfire.

“In a few seconds it got bigger and bigger.

“I walked over to the neighbours to see their Range Rover on fire. It looked like a giant fireball. I ran round to my neighbours' house and told them to get out.”

Miraculously no-one was injured in the blaze during which a column of fire rose 10 feet above the chimneys.

Don Sharpe and his wife Marion were thankful firefighters stopped the fire spreading to their home which is just 10 feet away.

Mr Sharpe said: “We were all standing here absolutely horrified.

“It is just amazing how quickly it went up.

“Chris shouted for us to get out because Broom Corner was on fire. Both occupants got out but before we knew it the fire had moved to the other house.

“The electricity pylon was set on fire. It was like watching a light show. We still don't have electricity in the house. One side of our house was fire damaged but the place is completely smoke logged.”

Firefighters were damping down the ruins this morning before the unstable chimney stacks could be pulled down.

Thirteen fire crews - some 55 firefighters - from Ipswich, Woodbridge and Needham Market eventually brought the blaze under control by 10pm but the two wooden houses had already been destroyed.

Divisional officer Paul Collins, of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “It is what we would term a total-loss fire. There was a potential for loss of life if it had taken place at a different time of day.

“The occupiers are very fortunate because everybody escaped uninjured. The occupiers are, as you would expect, in shock.”

Another firefighter said: “It was certainly one of the biggest fires we have had in the area for a long time.

“The main concern of the initial crews was that the fire might spread. The main reason the second one went up is that water supplies were so bad. The river tide was out so we could not use that - it could not have happened at a worst time.”

It is believed the two destroyed properties were built in the mid 1930's by a London stockbroker and were passed down to his son before they were sold on.

Villagers say the occupiers rented the two homes. A sign leading to the properties showed that plans were in place to build two luxury �1m five-bedroom homes at some stage.

Stan Baston, who lives in the village, said of the larger property destroyed: “It is very sad to see an end to such a building full of character. It always provided a dignified back-drop to the village.”

Colin Reid added: “It is the terrifying speed of the fire which is worrying and the complete devastation of the properties and the terrible trauma for the people who were living in them who had to get out at very short notice.”

A fire investigation is now being carried out to establish the cause of the blaze. The occupiers of the two homes were too upset to speak.

Timeline:-

- 7.15pm - one appliance from Woodbridge and one from Colchester Road, Ipswich sent to scene.

Due to repeat calls a further appliance from Princes Street, Ipswich, sent out.

- 7.29pm - further appliance sent from Princes Street, Ipswich

- 7.31pm - two further appliances and the operational support unit sent from Colchester Road, Ipswich, as well as the forward control vehicle from Woodbridge.

Shortly after a request is made for two water bowsers to attend - one sent from Framlingham and one sent from Sudbury

Further assistance required - one appliance from Needham Market and one from Holbrook sent to the scene bringing the total number of fire engines to eight.

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