Two families have praised quick thinking residents for rushing to the rescue after a ‘terrifying’ blaze ripped through a caravan, spread to houses and killed 11 pet guinea pigs.
Kevin Keeble and his wife Carol were alerted to the fire engulfing their caravan in the front drive of their home, in Baldwin Avenue, after a resident ‘hammered’ on their door at about 2.30am on Sunday.
They fled with their 18-month-old granddaughter Bella as residents helped next door neighbours Laura Lambell and partner Andrew carry their three young children to safety.
Police are treating the incident as arson after the flames gutted the caravan and a Mercedes 4x4, damaged two other cars as well as the two families’ houses. Eleven of Mrs Lambell’s pet guinea pigs died but one survived. Five fire engines attended and had the situation under control by 4.16am.
Mr Keeble, 53, said: “I’m totally disgusted and it’s a horrendous act by any individual to do in a residential area where there are young children living. There was no reason why that caravan should set alight. There was nothing in it that would have caused a heat source. The police are content it was a deliberate act by a third party. We’re really grateful to the neighbours and residents that assisted us that night. We’re obviously truly sorry about our neighbour next door having been dragged into the situation. We’re truly grateful to the fire services and police.”
His family have horses and they had been using the caravan while one of their horses was foaling. It was due to go into storage for the winter.
Mr Keeble said: “It was really a shock to see it alight. As I came out the front door, I could see the flames on the far side of the caravan. The flames really took hold. It was obviously dry, very windy and you could see the flames swirling.
“The flames were so high you could see it was taking over the Mercedes.
“Due to the intensity it caught the neighbour’s car and my company car and then went through the downstairs window, set the curtains alight and stair carpet and stairwell. It also went through the upstairs bathroom window. There’s a utility room on the side with a wooden door and window and went straight through there.”
Shortly after they left their house his wife, who suffers from high blood pressure and a high heart rate, collapsed and was treated by a medical team at the scene.
Mrs Lambell, 27, who also praised the community and firefighters, said: “It was absolutely terrifying. The kids were quite scared.”
Of her 12 guinea pigs, which were outside, only one Tom survived. The RSPCA has since provided the family with another after hearing about the incident.
The back and side of her Citroen Xsara Picasso melted and some of the windows to her house cracked. Mrs Lambell added: “I’m shocked - we’ve lived here two years nearly and it’s a lovely community, which is obvious from the people who came to help.”
Anyone with details about the incident should call police on 101 quoting reference 15017/15.