Firemen discover blaze which could have killed woman, 80

Martin Fowler, Richard Todd, Dave Shepherd (Crew Manager), Pete Howell
Martin Fowler, Richard Todd, Dave Shepherd (Crew Manager), Pete Howell
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AN ELDERLY woman could have been killed in a blaze at her home if firefighters had not spotted her bungalow burning as they rushed to another 999 call.

The 80-year-old was asleep at her home on Springfield Glen, Ecclesall, when an arsonist set fire to two conifer bushes nearby. Fierce flames spread from the bush fire to the bungalow’s roof.

The woman awoke only when the fire brigade arrived at her house and knocked on the door to investigate.

The shaken pensioner told The Star: “I could be dead now.” Crew manager Dave Shepherd, of Lowedges fire station, agreed. He said: “If we had been another five minutes the resident living there could have been dead.” South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service today appealed for help in tracing the arsonist who started the blaze - and for tip-offs which could lead to the arrest of countless firebugs wreaking havoc across the whole county.

The Star revealed yesterday that half of all fires which break out in South Yorkshire are arson attacks.

The shocked Springfield Glen victim, who didn’t want to be named, said the arsonists who put her life at risk “must be evil”.

“You think it’s never going to happen to you,” she said.

“Why do people do things like that? Are they youths on drugs, or out for kicks? It could have been very, very dangerous.”

A crew of firefighters on their way to another bush fire on nearby Button Hill spotted smoke pouring from the roof of the woman’s bungalow, and noticed that flames from the conifers had spread into the eaves of her roof. Part of the bungalow’s roof was already burning and the loft was filling with smoke. The pensioner said she was unaware of the blaze until firefighters pulled up outside in the early hours.

“I heard a noise, got up and had a look through the door, and saw two firemen, followed very quickly by a fire engine which pulled up just past my front door,” she said. “I unlocked the door and stood outside and realised it was me, and that all of the bushes were on fire.

“I went back inside to put my dressing gown on, and by that time the fire brigade were really knocking on my door.”

The crew led the woman to safety before tearing off tiles from her roof to extinguish the flames. They said the whole property was minutes away from being completely destroyed.

Crew manager Shepherd said: “Had we not been passing by on our way to another fire, within five minutes this could have been a much more serious incident. This absolutely highlights how quickly a small fire can turn into something life-threatening.

“We were responding to a call about bushes on fire on Button Hill when control rang to ask us to go to another address on the same road, where yet more bushes were alight. They then rang us again to direct us back to the first incident, and when we were turning round we saw the smoke from the bungalow.

“We knocked on the door to get the attention of the occupant, who was very shocked and surprised.

“There were three fires deliberately started within 200 metres of each other that night, by somebody intent on causing damage or harm.”

Anyone with information about arsonists should call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.