Gallery: Courageous neighbour relives the moment she rescued her neighbour from bungalow blaze in East Bergholt

Shirley Allen rescued her neighbour from a burning bungalow fire in East Bergholt on Monday. Shirley Allen rescued her neighbour from a burning bungalow fire in East Bergholt on Monday.

Andrew Hirst andrew.hirst@archant.co.uk
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
9:22 AM

A courageous neighbour who pulled an elderly widow from her burning bungalow moments before it was engulfed in flames has spoken of the daring rescue and how fate conspired to save the day.

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Shirley Allen said it was only by chance that she found herself outside her home on Monday afternoon when the smell of smoke alerted her to the fire happening two doors down in Foxhall Close, East Bergholt.

The 67-year-old retired care worker had originally planned to go shopping in Manningtree and would have been unable to save her neighbour had she not had a last-minute change of heart.

“I believe in fate and I believe someone was standing on my shoulders guiding my actions,” she said.

“If I hadn’t been there I don’t know what would have happened.”

After calling on her neighbour’s door and hearing her voice, scared and confused behind, Mrs Allen coaxed her to the door, entering the burning hallway as flames lapped at the ceiling and pulled the woman to safety in the nick of time.

“I covered her with a blanket and just as we managed to get to the next door property it blew and the flames came shooting out the window,” she said.

“I’ve never seen anything like it in all my life, the smoke was billowing so thick I could not see past her house – it was colossal!”

Despite the dangers, Mrs Allen and her neighbour were left unscathed by the fire as it went on to destroy the roof and engulf the building.

Firefighters from Ipswich, Woodbridge, Holbrook and Colchester spent more than an hour tackling the blaze and were on site for several more as they dampened down the charred shell remaining.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue’s watch commander Dave Edwards said his colleagues had seen plumes of black smoke billowing from the property as they approached along the A12 and faced 10 foot flames on arrival.

The adjacent two properties were also evacuated with the owners not expected to be allowed home for up to eight weeks as repairs are carried out. Mrs Allen said that although she was relieved to have been in the right place at the right time, she was saddened for her neighbour’s loss.

“Everything went so quickly, I was not really thinking about myself but at least I got her out,” she said,

“I just think it’s an awful shame that the woman has lost everything.”

Kathleen Cherry, who also lives on the close, praised Mrs Allen for making the rescue.

“If she hadn’t gone in when she did I don’t know what would have happened,” she said.

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