Hero neighbour describes moment she rescued elderly couple from house fire

A HEROIC neighbour has described the moment she raced into a home to save an elderly couple from a fire.

Mum Maria Smith had been out on a run and was heading home when she saw smoke and heard shouting coming from her neighbour’s bungalow in Lawnside, Nailsworth around 10.50am on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old mother-of-two, who works as an artist, said as soon as she saw the smoke instinct took over.

She and two other neighbours managed to get the elderly couple to safety after a kitchen fire started behind a gas cooker with flames half a metre tall.

“I live in Bunting Way just around the corner and was heading home after my run when I spotted smoke coming out of a window,” she said.

“I knocked on the door and no one answered so I just opened the door and walked in and it smelt like plastic.

“When I went in I found an elderly man who I later found out was blind and had dementia and his wife who was on oxygen sitting in a chair in the living room.

“I saw a small plastic try slightly on fire on the counter top in the kitchen.

“I put it out with a wet tea towel and while I was doing this the gentleman called the fire brigade.

“At the time I didn’t realise how flammable oxygen is.”

While on the phone to the fire brigade, Maria then heard a bang in the kitchen.

The gentleman had gone back to the stove somehow managed to accidentally start a second fire which was much more dangerous.

“I went into the kitchen and saw there was a fire behind the back of the gas cooker,” she said.

“The flames were about 40 or 50 centimetres in height and there was a lot of smoke.

“I have no idea how it happened but I was worried the oven would explode and the whole bungalow would go up.

“I chucked a jug of water over it from the side hoping it would die down but I don’t think it did.

Maria then managed to get the couple out with the help of two other neighbours.

One of the neighbours then extinguished the fire with more water.

“I think we put the fire out but there was still a lot of smoke,” Maria said.

“A small fire can cause a lot of smoke in a house especially if it’s plastic which is toxic .

“We don’t know how the fire happened behind the cooker, unless there was a spark or something.

“But with gas it only takes one little spark to blow everything up.”

“The man was very confused and I was told he had dementia.

“He had burns to his hands from where he had tried to put the fire out.

“It could’ve easily just blown up.

“It was a tricky task getting the two residents out especially since the lady was plugged into oxygen 24/7.

“We didn’t know how much time we had and we just had to get everyone out.

“I feel like I just went on autopilot and just did what I had to do to help.

“At first we were unsure what to do next but the fire service came quite quickly.”

Two fire engines, one from Nailsworth and one Stroud, attended.

Firefighters used a hose reel and two breathing apparatus.

Maria paid tribute to the two neighbours that helped during the incident.

She said: “I don’t even know the names of any of these other people who helped.

“They are a credit to our community as well.

“If it wasn’t for the lady that came in who knew the gent, I don’t think he would’ve left his house.

Despite her actions, Maria said she doesn’t feel like a hero.

“It wasn’t until my husband Charlie said to me ‘babe that’s so brave, that’s heroic you endangered your life’ that I then started to realise what I had done,” she said.

“I just made sure I kept everyone calm.”

“It just makes you feel reassured and good about the community.

“I have lived on this estate for three years and it’s nice to know everyone has got each other’s back.”

A spokesperson for the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said: “We were called at 11.07hrs on Tuesday, October 11 to a fire in Nailsworth.

“We sent a double-crewed land ambulance and an operations officer.

“We conveyed one patient to Cheltenham General Hospital.”

A spokesperson for Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service said: “We were called at 10.47am to reports of a fire at a bungalow in Lawnside, Nailsworth.

“Two fire engines, from Nailsworth and Stroud, attended the scene and used a hose reel and two breathing apparatus to extinguish the fire.

“The stop signal was received at 11.39am.”

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