Ex-firefighter comes to rescue during neighbour’s house fire in Haywards Heath

The scene of the fire in Turners Mill Road. Photo by Eddie Howland
The scene of the fire in Turners Mill Road. Photo by Eddie Howland
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An ex-fireman jumped to the rescue of his neighbours when they frantically knocked on his door in the early hours, to warn their home was ablaze.

Paul Witham, 34, and Vicki Cunningham, 30, were woken by their smoke alarm at about 5.30am on Friday (July 3) and opened their door to a smoke-filled corridor and a fire raging in the airing cupboard on the top floor of ther three floor end-of-terrace house, in Turners Mill Road, Haywards Heath.

After calling emergency services Vicki rushed to the neighbour’s house to warn the fire might spread across if it reached the joint roof space - little did she know she was knocking on the door of former firefighter of 30 years Peter Sandersonn,

Paul explained: “Vicki called the door bell frantically and told him what was happening. Peter, calm as you like, said ‘OK’, shut the door and went back upstairs,

“She thought ‘that’s a bit weird’ then 15 seconds later he ran down in his shorts and T-shirt, jumped over the fence, asked where the fire was, switched off the electrics, he’s gone up to the top floor, felt the door, felt the heat and it’s fully ablaze in there.

“He went and got his hose and went up to the on the middle floor and effectively rebound the water flow off the wall to contain it.

“We had no idea he was an ex-fireman until the fire crew turned up and we said our neighbour was inside and they said ‘we know him’.

“He was the right person to call in that situation! He is a hero.”

Peter, 56, explained the importance of keeping the fire contained. He said there are six houses connected to the same roof void so, worst case scenario, all those homes could have been affected.

Peter and Paul emphasised that none of Peter’s actions could have taken place without the smoke alarm waking the couple early enough for the fire to be contained.

West Sussex Fire and Rescue said four fire engines were called to the incident and the fire was caused by an electrical fault.

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