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Home becomes blazing inferno

PUBLISHED: 12:36 04 February 2002 | UPDATED: 15:25 03 March 2010

SHOCKED night worker Tina Wright said she was lucky to be alive after being woken up by the smell of smoke minutes before her home became a blazing inferno and left the family homeless.

SHOCKED night worker Tina Wright said she was lucky to be alive after being woken up by the smell of smoke minutes before her home became a blazing inferno and left the family homeless.

The care worker and mother of two grown up sons was the only person in the Halesworth house – which had been home to the family for 24 years – at the time and escaped wearing just a dressing gown after a blaze.

Fire is believed to have started in the conservatory at around 11am on Saturday and rapidly spread through the house and into the roof space, threatening the homes either side which suffered serious smoke damage. A family cat died in the fire.

Neighbours described hearing a series of loud explosions as the windows in the upper floor cracked from the heat of the inferno.

Six fire crews were quickly on the scene, and were able to save the homes either side from any serious damage after firefighters wearing breathing masks entered the roof void and dampened down the flames.

A police helicopter was also at the scene, and successfully used special heat-seeking cameras to pin-point areas of intense heat to help direct the fire crews below.

A control unit, a special support unit from headquarters in Ipswich and an aerial platform from Norwich were brought in as firefighters fought to contain the fire, and police units, the ambulance service and paramedics were also on the scene.

Mrs Wright, 42, tried to re-enter the family's Lambert Close home but was beaten back by the smoke.

The blaze claimed the life of one of the family cats, and destroyed all the devastated family's belongings, leaving their home a charred shell.

Mrs Wright's husband, Russell, 49, a lorry driver, was at work when the blaze broke out, and their sons, Lee, 22 and Craig, 19, had spent the night out and were not at home at the time.

Luckily, the two neighbouring homes escaped serious damage.

Next-door neighbour, Beverley Stratford-Johns, daughter-in-law of the late actor Stratford Johns who died last week, described how she managed to get her daughter, aged ten, and son, aged five, safely across to neighbours just before she heard a series of explosions.

"I got the children out and it just blew," she said. "Just as I ran out the back there were three of four explosions which went bang, bang, bang."

A shaken Mrs Wright was seen by paramedics, and was later treated by her doctor.

Paramedics also treated her father-in-law, an angina sufferer, for shock. He was with his wife at a nearby hairdresser's and arrived on the scene.

"It shook her up quite bad," said Mr Wright. "She's the worst. My sons, they are quite shook up I think."

Her husband described how lucky her escape had been, because she was normally such a sound sleeper.

"She woke up smelling the smoke and rushed downstairs to see the conservatory was alight and she came across to the neighbours," explained Mr Wright.

She and a neighbour tried to get back in to see if they could turn anything off, but were beaten back by the smoke, he said.

"She can sleep for Britain. Once she goes to sleep that's it," he said.

Residents rallied round to help the three families affected by the blaze and expressed sadness at what had happened to the Wrights.

They were being looked after by neighbours as fire crews salvaged what they could from the wreckage. They declined an offer from the council of bed and breakfast accommodation in Lowestoft.

"We have lost everything," said Mr Wright. "All we have to wear is the clothes we have on."

He added: "I have not really taken it in, to be honest with you. I'm a bit shook up."

Stephen Hall, who lives with his wife, Sue, and three of his six children, in the other adjoining terraced home caught up in the blaze, praised the fire service for their swift actions.

"They have done an absolutely fantastic job," he said.

"It's shocking the speed with which the fire took off."

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the fire service, but is not being treated as suspicious.

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