Hero neighbour saves home

Paul Matthews in his neighbours fire damaged garage. Ref shs 2076-06-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

Paul Matthews in his neighbours fire damaged garage. Ref shs 2076-06-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

A quick-thinking accountant, who rushed to help a neighbour whose garage was on fire, has been praised for his part in preventing what could have been a major incident.

Paul Sheldon Matthews, 57, sprang into action after spotting flames licking out of the garage attached to a bungalow two doors down.

The Primley Mead resident managed to put out the fire before it reached the house by dousing it with several saucepans full of water.

He said: “I just kicked into action.

“The smoke was so thick. You could see the flames, but you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.

“I just threw the water where the flames were.”

Jeff Westwood told the Herald how he returned home and opened his front door to find the hallway filled with smoke.

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He fought his way through the fumes and traced the source of the smoke to the garage, where he opened the door to ventilate the room.

“When I opened the door, it burst into flames,” he said. “I suppose I was in shock to start with.

“Then Mr Matthews came rushing in and just started throwing water on it.”

Mr Westwood started moving items out from the garage that could feed the flames, while his neighbour got to work extinguishing the fire.

He said that, although the garage ‘was in a real mess’, Mr Matthews’ actions had prevented the blaze spreading through the house.

“If we had left it another 10 minutes, it could have been very serious,” he said.“He definitely saved the day.”

Mr Matthews, who is a regular in the congregation at Sidmouth Parish Church, said he was happy to help his neighbour – and felt lucky he was home at the time to lend a hand.

He noticed smoke in the air at first, before spotting the flames once Mr Westwood opened his garage door.

“Fortunately, I was in the front of my house and I saw the smoke,” he said. “And the wind was blowing in the right direction for me to notice it.

“I didn’t think about it, I just acted.

“I’m glad I did – a few minutes more and it would have really taken hold.”

A spokesman for Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service said: “The gentleman’s actions seem to have prevented the fire from spreading, on this occasion, but our advice remains to stay away and call 999.

“We’re pleased this incident ended well, but there may have been substances contained within the garage that reacted adversely to the fire or the water and specialist equipment may have been more suitable.”