Pensioner Les Reed says he owes his life to the quick reactions of his neighbors who pounded on his front door and windows to warn him that a fire was ravaging his home.
Les, 68, had dozed off in his chair in the living room of the property in Calvert Terrace, Murton, County Durham, around 4pm on Friday when their beatings roused him from sleep.
“It was thanks to the neighbors that I managed to get out just in time,” Les said. “If they hadn’t woken me up, I might not be here today. It was close.
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“The fire had gotten so close to me that I later discovered there was soot from the smoke in my left ear. I’m still a bit numb and in shock.”
He revealed that his neighbors had also used garden hoses to try and douse the fire and keep it at bay before firefighters arrived. But even that failed to save his possessions.
“I lost everything – I’m a bit of a hoarder and I do arts and crafts because I like to make things. I kept all the materials in bags and it went up in smoke .”
The cause of the fire is under investigation, but Les said firefighters suspect it was a freezer he stored under the stairs. “It was secondary and it was starting a bit. It was second-hand when I got it. Maybe the capacitor or the motor is gone.”
The Housing Association property he lived in was condemned and Les now lives with his family in North Shields. Meanwhile, his nephew, Ken Grainger, who lives in Trimdon, County Durham, has started a JustGiving page to help his uncle.
Ken said: “It’s a relief he’s still around and it’s thanks to his neighbors – there’s a close community spirit there that saved him.
“Although he is glad to have survived, my uncle has lost everything. He was either destroyed or damaged beyond repair by fire. He is not working at the moment due to cataracts – he has been waiting for an operation.”
Ken, 40, has set a £500 goal for the JustGiving page to help Les pay for the essentials he lost in the fire. He wrote on the site: “I would really like to help him get back on track with the basics.
“No amount of money can replace lost items of sentimental value or help with the pain associated with their loss.
“I’m only talking about furniture, kitchen utensils, maybe a new freezer that doesn’t explode in the blink of an eye! I know times are tough for everyone these days, but please help if you can.”
* If you would like to help Les, go to: www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/housefiressuck