Neighbours rescue brothers from Crawley blaze

jpco-19-5-14 Tom Franks saves neighbours from house fire in Pound Hill, Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-140519-135853001
jpco-19-5-14 Tom Franks saves neighbours from house fire in Pound Hill, Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-140519-135853001

Neighbours rescued two brothers after a fire broke out in their kitchen.

A father, his son and a friend evacuated Dan and James Baker from their smoke-filled home in Lewes Close, Pound Hill, just after midnight on Thursday (May 15).

Dan, 21, said: “These guys not only saved me and my brother’s lives, they also saved four houses from potentially going up in our street.”

A washing machine caught fire which was backed on to a wall connected to a gas main.

Dan said his kitchen was ‘totally gone’ and the cost of the damage to the house could run up to £20,000.

Tom Franks, 62, a Merchant Navy seaman, attempted to put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher.

He said: “The fire chief and paramedics said another ten minutes and it would’ve been a totally different story.

“I thought it would not have taken much longer for the whole house to be on fire.

“It was very close to that situation of being catastrophic since we would have lost the boys.”

Tom was alerted to the fire across the road by his son Joe Franks, 36.

Tom, who suffers from breathing difficulties, kicked the door down and shouted to the brothers who were on the first floor.

He said: “Any exertion causes me to be short of breath quite quickly but adrenalin overrides any situations like that.

“I knew the first thing to do is evacuate the premises.

“I’m a merchant seaman and had intensive training on fire fighting as part of my examinations.”

James, 31, came down the stairs and was taken out of the house.

Tom ran to his car and grabbed a fire extinguisher to tackle the flames.

He said: “I crawled into the kitchen as low as I could.

“The washing machine was the hot spot, the work tops on either side were ablaze, it was melting everything around it.”

He said the extinguisher took ‘the fierceness out of the flames’.

Meanwhile, Joe phoned the emergency services and alerted neighbours.

Richard Simmonds, 26, a friend of Tom’s, of Northgate, was visiting friends in the close.

He rescued Dan after he heard shouting coming from outside the house.

He went through the burning kitchen to find Dan after Tom had attempted to put out the fire.

Richard found Dan halfway out of a ground floor window facing the back garden.

Richard said: “He was in the window frame, not moving.

“I grabbed him by the arm and led him out the front.”

He added: “It’s a bad situation but no one died, things can be replaced but people can’t.”

The emergency services arrived shortly after.

Firefighters put out the fire and ventilated the house.

Dan and James were taken to hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation.

Paramedics checked Tom , who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, at the scene.

Tom’s wife Julia helped marshall vehicles out of the close.

Around 30 people gathered in the close during the incident.

Tom said: “It’s reaffirmed that this is a very nice close.

“The cars were being moved so we can get the fire engines in.”

Dan thanked everyone in Lewes Close for their support after the fire.

He said: “Everyone since the fire has been really supportive.”