St Neots couple escape after blaze at their home

16:00 01 March 2014

The charred bedroom wall at the couple

The charred bedroom wall at the couple's home.

Archant

A St Neots couple had to flee from their home after a fire broke out in their bedroom on Wednesday (February 19).

Wheelchair-bound Em Hammond, 76, of Sandfields Road, was awake in bed when medical equipment on a bedside table caught alight just before 11pm.

She called husband John, 75, who helped her downstairs before attempting to tackle the flames with buckets of water.

A neighbour heard the alarm and went to help just before two fire crews from St Neots arrived. They moved them to safety before extinguishing the flames and clearing the smoke.

The couple’s son, John Hammond, 38, steward at the RAFA Club in Huntingdon Street, was called by his dad and rushed to the house.

He said: “It was the sort of phone call I didn’t expect to get at 11pm on a Wednesday night.

“Mum’s head would have been less than a foot away from the flames. Had they both been asleep and the smoke got to them before the alarm was raised, then I don’t want to think about what could have happened.”

Paramedics examined the pair for the effects of breathing in smoke and Mr Hammond was taken to Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon. He was kept in overnight for tests but discharged the following morning.

Mr Hammond junior added: “The damage is minor – all they have lost is a bedside table, a pair of glasses, and a nebuliser. There is cosmetic damage to the wall, but the smoke was like Mount Vesuvius going off and dropping ash in every room.”

He believes the fire started in the nebuliser – a machine used by his mother for her breathing difficulties. However, the fire service investigation concluded that it was most likely to have been started by “carelessly discarded smoking materials”.

A spokesman said: “No part of our investigation concluded or indicated that the nebuliser spontaneously combusted, and for this to happen it would be extremely unlikely.

“The fire service would like to reassure people who use nebulisers that these pieces of medical equipment are not a fire risk and should continue to be used in line with medical guidance.

“This incident highlights the importance of ensuring all smoking materials are carefully discarded and emphasises the dangers of smoking while in bed.

“Smokers should never smoke in bed. You should always extinguish smoking materials properly and ensure ashtrays are emptied regularly. Most importantly, make sure you have a correctly fitted working smoke alarm.”

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