Smoke alarm saved man’s life after house fire in Haverhill

The house in Bladon Way, Haverhill after it was damaged by a fire. Picture: Steve Barton
The house in Bladon Way, Haverhill after it was damaged by a fire. Picture: Steve Barton

The owner of a house in Haverhill that was ravaged by fire believes his son’s life was saved because a smoke alarm was activated.

Damian Austin was asleep in a first floor bedroom at the detached home he shares with his parents Mike and Patricia in Bladon Way when the fire started on yesterday (Sunday) morning.

The fire had broken out at about 9am in a bedroom next to the one in which he slept, at which point he ran downstairs and out of the house, dressed only in his underwear.

Mr and Mrs Austin, who had lived in the house since it was built in 1971 and raised Damian and his two brothers and sister there, were on their way to visit relatives in Leicester when they got a call from a friend living on the Boyton Hall estate to say their house was on fire.

Mr Austin, who had to pull over near Baldock and take the call, said: “If it had not been for the smoke alarm my son would have still been in there.

“He came out in his underpants as well.

“He opened the door and saw there was a fire and came downstairs and straight out.

“My friend rang me and said ‘Mike, your house in on fire,’ I said ‘bloody hell, my son is in there, make sure he gets out.’

“We were coming back home and I had to say to Patricia ‘is this really happening.’

“They’ve filled the house with water, it’s absolutely saturated.”

Speaking at the scene of the fire today (Monday), Mr and Mrs Austin’s daughter Selina said the main part of the house no longer has a roof because it collapsed as a result of the fire.

Although the single story extensions on either side of the house are in tact, they are saturated with water.

The whole of the first floor, five bedrooms and a bathroom, is out of bounds, added Ms Austin.

She added: “Six hours of putting water on the building, with eight fire engines, there’s a lot of water in there.

“If it’s not smoke damaged, it’s water damaged.”

Ms Austin added that her parents have received many offers of accommodation in the wake of the fire, staying Sunday night at the home of some friends who live just a few doors down the street.

“There’s so many places where they’ve been offered to stay,” she explained.

“It’s just unbelievable, the community spirit with something awful like this. My dad has had a constant stream of people coming to help him today and giving him hugs.”

Damian was ‘quite traumatised’ by what happened, said Ms Austin, and has gone to stay with one of his brothers and while the family have been able to salvage some of their possessions after the fire, returning to live in the house is a long way off.

“They are going to be out for the best part of a year to rebuild it,” said Selina.

In all, 11 fire appliances were called to the incident, arriving from Haverhill, Clare, Wickhambrook, Sudbury, Ipswich East, Bury St Edmunds, Linton and Long Melford.

Two fire engines initially attended but more were called for, including an aerial appliance from Bury.

Some of the surrounding properties were evacuated for a short while as a precautionary measure due to the smoke and although the stop message was declared by the fire service at 4,12pm, some of the firefighters remained at the house until 9.30pm, added Ms Austin.

The cause of the fire has not yet been confirmed and will be investigated, but it is thought it was started by a faulty electrical appliance.