March 7 2014 Latest news:
Amanda Nunn, Senior reporter
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
A couple and their grandchildren escaped with their lives on Sunday after a fire ravaged the pensioners’ home during the night, killing their beloved pet dog.
Paul and Jenny Francis were awoken in the middle of the night by their smoke alarms when the larder fridge in their Hornchurch home caught fire, filling rooms with billowing black smoke.
Mr Francis, 67, ran downstairs where he found the utility room so full of dense smoke he described it as “like having a black cloth put over your face”.
Meanwhile, Mrs Francis, 67, grabbed their two young grandchildren Harrison, five and Nathan, four, and wrapped them in blankets before bundling them out of the house.
Mr Francis said: “You think it won’t happen to you. I opened the door and it was absolutely black, I couldn’t see anything. I put the light on and it made no difference - it was that thick.”
He tried to rescue their black cairn terrier dog Rosie who slept under the radiator next to the fridge but she is believed to have died from smoke inhalation almost immediately.
When fire crews arrived they tried but were unable to resuscitate the 11-year-old animal.
“The fireman was extremely cross with Paul going in for the dog but it was a natural reaction,” Mrs Francis said. “I’m just broken-hearted without Rosie.
“If we didn’t have the smoke alarms it would have been a very different story but it didn’t do Rosie any good. I just cannot believe she’s not here but it could have been all of us dead.”
The fire broke out in the Ayloff Close home at about 5.30am on Sunday.
It took two crews almost an hour to bring the blaze under control.
Mrs Francis said her grandchildren were traumatised by the fire and so she tried to make a game out of it by talking about Fireman Sam.
Her husband was taken to Queen’s Hospital, Romford, where he was treated for smoke inhalation.
Mr Francis added: “Nothing’s going to bring Rosie back but if it saves someone by knowing how important fire alarms and shutting your doors are, it’s worthwhile.”