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Passer-by alerts priest to blazing parsonage

31 January 2014

A PRIEST and his wife were unaware that their home was on fire, until a passer-by hammered on their front door to alert them.

The Priest-in-Charge of St Paul's, Stockton-on-Tees, the Revd Derek Rosamond, and his wife, Lynne, thought that a fuse had blown when their house (left) was plunged into darkness. As they used torches to move around, they had no idea that an electrical fault had started a fire in the roof.

When a passer-by, Kenny Westwood, who had seen the smoke, noticed the torchlight, he realised that there were people inside.

At first there was no response to his frantic knocking on the front door. He was about to kick the door down when he saw a flicker of light inside. He said: "They were searching for the cause of the power cut. I said: 'Your house is on fire: you have got to get out right now.' There was a bit of confusion before they realised what was happening."

He then stood with the couple as fire crews tackled the blaze. "It was horrible to see them watch their home burn - but they were alive."

The house suffered a collapsed roof and ceilings, and water damage. Three fire appliances and a hydraulic platform took almost four hours to extinguish the fire.

A spokesperson for the diocese of Durham said that the full extent of the damage was still being assessed. "This was a tragic accident, but, thankfully, a passer-by had the presence of mind to knock on the door when he saw smoke."

On Sunday, firefighters put out a blaze at another vicarage, in Cornwall. The Vicar of Pendeen, the Revd Alan Rowell was leading the morning service while a team of more than two dozen tackled a fire at the  200-year-old vicarage.

On Wednesday, he told The Cornishman that villagers had been "absolutely amazing. . . I've been able to buy some new replacement clothes which, having always previously got my clothes from charity shops, mean I'm much better dressed now than I've ever been."

One villager has offered to bring a metal detector to try to find the Military Cross awarded to Mr Rowell's grandfather in the First World War.


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