Welwyn Garden City heroes save children from fire

PUBLISHED: 10:02 03 January 2019 | UPDATED: 13:18 04 January 2019

Harry Hagger (L) and Conner Martin (R) both stepped in to help with the rescue of children in a fire on Knella Road in Welwyn Garden City. Pictures: Harry Hagger/Kevin Lines/Conner Martin

Harry Hagger (L) and Conner Martin (R) both stepped in to help with the rescue of children in a fire on Knella Road in Welwyn Garden City. Pictures: Harry Hagger/Kevin Lines/Conner Martin

Harry Hagger/Kevin Lines/Conner Martin

A Welwyn Garden City family have expressed their gratitude after neighbours and friends helped save their children from a burning house in the early hours of Sunday morning.

At 1.18am on Sunday, December 30, a devastating fire broke out at an address on Knella Road, starting in the kitchen and moving to the rest of the house.

The family believe that the cause of the fire may have been down to an electrical fault.

Before fire services could get there, a neighbour, Conner Martin, was able to rescue two children from the family of five that was trapped in the house.

“If it weren’t for him, they might not have got out,” said father Philip Byott, 43.

He was aided by family friend Harry Hagger who arrived just as the fire was getting serious.

Conner had been standing in his back garden having a late-night cigarette before bedtime when he noticed the commotion.

Getting his boots on, he leapt into action and ran towards the house.

Harry had been giving his mother, and Philip’s partner Caroline, a lift home when they saw the fire.

Caroline ran into the house, but neither Harry nor Conner were able to follow her after the smoke became too overwhelming.

“The fire had spread, causing objects to fly towards us,” said Harry.

“At this point Conner had made his way round the back, so I followed by jumping up onto the shed and going over.”

Round the corner they saw that Caroline was screaming from a first floor window with her three children.

“I couldn’t even see who was at the window because there was so much smoke,” Conner told the Welwyn Hatfield Times. “You could just see hands.”

Having found a short ladder at the side of the house, the six-foot-three builder still wasn’t fully able to reach the windowledge.

Philip said that the older children had to dangle their younger brother by his feet from the window to get him down to Conner.

Conner managed to catch him and set him on the ground and put him in Harry’s care before mounting the ladder again to help a girl escape.

“As she was coming out I think she slipped, she just sort of fell and landed on me and landed on the plants and stuff,” said Conner.

“I checked she was all right and that was when the fence came flying open and a fireman came through,” he said.

Crews from Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield and Hertford had arrived to put the fire out.

Harry and Conner rallied round clearing obstacles and comforting the kids as the firefighters made sure everyone else was safe. “It was quite a relief,” said Conner.

“By this time the whole kitchen was glowing orange and flames and smoke were everywhere but those brave firemen persisted.”

By this point, Caroline had disappeared from the window.

“They literally dragged her down the stairs and out the door,” said Philip.

The ambulance service had sent out a Hazardous Area Response Team, two ambulance officers, two ambulances and a rapid response team.

Caroline, who had to be resuscitated in the front garden by a team of paramedics, was taken to the Lister hospital and is recovering from smoke inhalation.

The Welwyn Hatfield Times also understands that the family’s teenage daughter played a heroic role in the rescue.

Philip said he is incredibly grateful for the interventions.

They escaped with their lives, but the house has suffered enormous damage, said Philip, who is staying with family in St Albans.

Friends at the Blackberry Jack pub in St Albans are now rallying round with a fundraiser to help the family get back on their feet after the disaster.

Sean Comerford, station commander for Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue service, thanked Conner for his efforts, adding: “Our advice to people is to always have working smoke alarms in every property, and that everybody who lives in the property should be aware of, and be able to put into place, an escape plan.

“If anybody is in any doubt about whether their smoke alarms are working, please contact the station,” he said, adding that the fire service provides free smoke alarms.

Conner, who is due to become a father in May, will definitely be taking the advice on board. “It makes it a bit more scary, as my missus is pregnant. When I told her about it, she was a bit distraught.”

To contact the fire service about free smoke alarms and checking them, call 01707 343500.

• To donate to the Blackberry Jack fundraiser, see here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bberry-stalbans

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