Brave neighbour praised for putting out house fire on his own – and saving home

A FORMER retained firefighter saved a house from extensive damage after putting out the blaze by himself.

Courageous James Britchford knocked down the back door and rushed into his neighbour’s house after hearing the smoke alarm going off.

James Britchford from Skipper Way, Lee-on-the-Solent Picture: Sarah Standing (180773-6391)

James Britchford from Skipper Way, Lee-on-the-Solent Picture: Sarah Standing (180773-6391)

He managed to put out the cooker fire and save the property from ruin.

The 41-year-old, from Lee-on-the-Solent, said: ‘I was coming home and as I parked up, I could hear a fire alarm sounding.

‘I went to my neighbour’s house and could hear the alarm through an open window.

‘I knocked on the door but there was no answer. When I looked through the letter box I could see and smell smoke.

‘I know children live in the property so I immediately knew I had to find out if anyone was in there.’

James, who volunteers for Gosport and Fareham Inshore Rescue Service (Gafirs), tried to go through the front door but could not get in. So he rushed through the back gate and knocked down the back door.

When inside, he saw a pan on fire so put the lid on it, turned off the gas and threw the pot out into the garden.

‘After the fire was out, I started searching the house,’ James added.

‘I looked in all the rooms, even the bath, in case someone had collapsed from the smoke.

‘Only when I was sure it was empty did I leave.’

Having served seven years as a retained firefighter in Oxford, James’ training kicked in and instinct took over.

He knew how to prevent breathing in too much smoke and how long he could last in the property.

James, of Skipper Way, said: ‘I would never recommend anyone else do what I did. It is only because of my training that I considered going inside.’

Fortunately, James did not suffer any injuries from his actions and he stopped more damage being caused to the house.

He added: ‘When I spoke to the homeowner the next day, she said I saved her house. She said I also saved all her life’s memories – something I didn’t even think of.

‘There is a lot of smoke damage but the kitchen only had minor fire damage.’

This is not the first time James has run towards a serious incident. In 2010, he witnessed a crash near Sparsholt College where a young man was trapped in a burning car.

James, who was part of the Royal Auxiliary Fleet at the time, managed to pull him out of the vehicle although he sadly died from his injuries.

When police arrived, they saw James’ efforts and he was awarded the Commander-in-chief in Fleet Bravery Award.

He said: ‘I don’t purposely run towards danger but when I see a situation and I feel like I could help, I have to.

‘My first instinct is to help people.

‘No-one was doing anything when the alarm was going off and it could have been a carbon monoxide alarm. I had to do something.’