PENSIONER Mary Robertson has praised firefighters who saved her life after she was trapped in her burning home in Sheffield.
The 66-year-old had raced upstairs to rescue her cats after discovering the blaze, but was then trapped by the flames and smoke.
Mary, of Holmhirst Drive, Woodseats, said she was terrified when she opened her door to find her wheelie bin alight and flames engulfing her porch.
While her husband ran outside and began pouring water on the flames, Mary, who has worked as a cleaner for 34 years, dashed upstairs to find her beloved cats - Charlie and Jasper. One had fled the burning property, but the other was cowering upstairs while smoke billowed through the house.
A firefighter wearing specialist breathing apparatus entered the terrace house to find Mary and placed an oxygen mask over her face until the flames were extinguished and it was safe for them to leave. An investigation into the cause of the fire is under way, with firefighters looking at the possibility a cigarette may have been placed in the bin. Mary said she believes a passer-by must have dropped it into the bin.
“The firefighters said it may have been smouldering there for 24 hours,” she said. “My husband smokes, but he doesn’t smoke at the front of the house where this happened - I think someone has thrown their cigarette in as they have been passing, which was a stupid thing to do because if we had not been in the whole house could have gone up.”
Mary, who works at Woodseats Working Men’s Club, described her ordeal on Saturday afternoon as ‘frightening’.
“I was sitting in the house when I noticed smoke and when I opened the front door there were flames everywhere - I was terrified,” she said.
“I shouted to my husband that there was a fire and he ran downstairs and started throwing water over it with a neighbour, but I ran upstairs because I knew the cats were up there. There was no way I could have left them.
“A fireman found me and brought an oxygen mask and stayed with me and kept me calm until it was safe for me to go downstairs again - the firefighters saved me. Anything could have happened because I couldn’t see anything because of the thick black smoke.
“I want to say a big thank you to the fire brigade for all they did for me and to the Red Cross who sent people out at night to see if we needed any food - everyone has looked after us.
“It was frightening and nerve-racking, but thankfully I got out.”
Diane Malpass, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue head of community safety, said: “We would urge all householders to ensure wheelie bins are stored away from their property.
“That will help to prevent fire from spreading to the house if the bin does catch fire for any reason.
“People should also plan their escape route in the event of a fire in their home, and consider how they would reach safety if their usual passage is blocked for any reason.
“This incident also highlights the importance of ensuring cigarettes are fully extinguished, ideally into a metal container which is regularly emptied.”
A fire service investigation is also under way into the cause of a blaze on White Thorns Close, Batemoor, Sheffield, after a man had to climb through a window to escape his smoke filled home.
He woke on Sunday morning to find his bedroom thick with smoke from a fire in a storage cupboard in his hallway.