On-call firefighter raises alarm after blaze breaks out behind his Burwash home

The fire ripped through the building in High Street
The fire ripped through the building in High Street

A quick-thinking Burwash firefighter came the rescue of his sleeping family and neighbours after alerting his colleagues to a blaze which broke out behind his home.

Chris Woolgar was woken up by the smell of burning after a fire broke out at the Village Stores in Burwash in the early hours of Wednesday morning (September 12).

The fire broke out in the Village Stores

The fire broke out in the Village Stores

Sensing the impending danger the retained firefighter helped evacuate his mother from the house before running up the road to alert the fire service.

Three fire engines were on the scene within minutes and Chris’ mother, Wendy Woolgar, said if they hadn’t warned crews so quickly the incident could have been a lot worse.

She said: “I quickly got dressed and called 999 at 3.31am while he took off through thick smoke up our drive to the station and alerted his colleagues before they were even notified by their alerters.

“Another 20 mins without Burwash Crew arriving so promptly and it would have been a totally different story and many houses would have been lost and possibly lives.”

Firefighters at the scene

Firefighters at the scene

The pair’s house backs directly onto the store and is the only property which would have been able to spot the initial flames.

Wendy said: “I woke up just before 3.25am to hear him running around the house opening doors. He had smelt smoke upstairs through his bedroom window and then heard a crackling noise.”

After checking on his mother Chris then opened a door next her room and saw the flames flickering outside the window.

The driveway of their home then became engulfed in smoke and Wendy said she had to go back inside the house and get a wet towel otherwise she wouldn’t have made it through the thick smoke.

Crews were still at the scene at 10am

Crews were still at the scene at 10am

“I ran across the road and just grabbed the nearest person and hugged them as I was very scared.

“Halfway up the drive the flames suddenly whooshed up and when I got over the road I called 999 again and said that we would need more than one pump to deal with it to avert a major incident.”

Crews from Burwash, Mayfield and Heathfield arrived just before 3.35am with three more joining to fight the flames by 5am.

Firefighters remained on the scene dampening down until 10am.

Wendy added: “The Bear very kindly opened its doors for us and supplied us with hot drinks and the firemen also had bacon sandwiches.”