Neighbours save women from fire

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AN HEROIC secretary saved a disabled woman from a fire which ravaged a 16th century home in Weston near Towcester this week.

Alex Riley, aged 55, was at work just after 9am on Tuesday, March 1, when builders raised the alarm that smoke was pouring from Armada House next door in High Street.

Fearing for one of the homeowners, a disabled woman in her eighties, diminutive Mrs Riley, a surveyor’s personal assistant, ran through the front door, along the smoke-logged hallway and upstairs, where she knew the woman would be still in bed.

After failing to get out of a barred front bedroom window, she ushered the woman, still in her nightie, to a back window, heaved a heavy chest of drawers out of the way, and lifted her onto the window sill.

Mrs Riley’s boss, Jonathan Carpenter, and two builders who had been working in the garden of Armada House, then helped the pair to the ground down a ladder.

All of the rescuers and the occupants escaped unharmed before fire tore through the property minutes later.

Speaking afterwards a shaken Mr Riley said: “I just thought that I had to get her out and just ran in, calling her name.

“I had never been inside before and the smoke was so thick I couldn’t see my hand in front of me. I was just calling out her name.

“When I got to her room, I blocked up the gaps in the door with dressing gowns but it wasn’t doing any good.

“At that point I really thought we were stuffed. Then, I don’t know where I got the strength from but I managed to heave the drawers aside and get her up to the window.

“It was such a relief to pop my head out into the fresh air. It was quite horrible really but I just couldn’t have left without her. I don’t know how I did it. I suppose, because she was ahead of me, I knew, if she didn’t get out, then neither of us would have.”

Mr Carpenter added: “We all then helped the lady to the ground and we probably hurt her and shouted at her a bit in the panic but I’ve said sorry to her. We’re just really relieved we could do our bit. Something just takes over and you do what you have to - it’s what neighbours do for each other.”

Mrs Riley’s husband, Mike, said: “I’m massively proud of her. It’s just amazing to have the courage like that.

“Most people would have walked away and you wouldn’t have blamed them.”

At its peak around 50 fire figthers from Brackley, Towcester, Northampton, Daventry and Oxfordshire were need to tackle the blaze and crews remained at the scene for several days.