‘Lucky coincidence’ Welwyn Garden City woman was awake during early morning house fire

PUBLISHED: 14:04 08 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:48 10 July 2020

Rachel Hicks' house caught fire just before 5am at the end of June. Picture: Rachel hicks

Rachel Hicks' house caught fire just before 5am at the end of June. Picture: Rachel hicks

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A Welwyn Garden City woman with disablities has described her experience and pain after her house caught fire last weekend.

Damaged caused to Rachel's property after an early morning fire last month. Picture: Rachel HicksDamaged caused to Rachel's property after an early morning fire last month. Picture: Rachel Hicks

Rachel Hicks, a former nurse who suffers from multiple chronic pain issues and spinal injuries, became worried by a burning smell in her Woodhall Lane house early Saturday morning.Woodhall Lane house early Saturday morning.

Within minutes her house was on fire and full of black smoke.

Rachel said: “It was totally a lucky coincidence I was up otherwise the situation could have been so much worse.

“I had just woken up and was sitting downstairs watching TV when I smelled burning, I was concerned and frightened as I live on my own. I couldn’t see any fire but being disabled I wanted to be prepared so I went to the kitchen to get water. By the time I returned the living room was ablaze and I was choking on thick black smoke.

Rachel's cat Oliver was scared by the incident but not badly injured. Picture: Rachel HicksRachel's cat Oliver was scared by the incident but not badly injured. Picture: Rachel Hicks

“I was so very frightened and worried about getting out of the house. I could feel the panic rising in me as I couldn’t find my phone. I managed to get out of the house and alert my neighbours. They called the fire brigade for me.”

A spokeswoman for Herts Fire Service said: “Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service was called at 04.57am on Saturday June 27 to a fire on the ground floor of a mid-terraced house in Woodhall Lane, Welwyn Garden City.

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“Two fire crews from Welwyn Garden City used 4 BA, 2 Hose reels and one covering jet to extinguish the fire by 05.25am and all occupants were accounted for. One woman suffering from smoke inhalation required assistance by the ambulance service. The incident closed at 05.51am.”

Damaged caused to Rachel's property after an early morning fire last month. Picture: Rachel HicksDamaged caused to Rachel's property after an early morning fire last month. Picture: Rachel Hicks

Rachel isn’t sure how the fire started but thinks it was an electrical spark.

She added: “As we were waiting for the fire brigade to arrive there was a loud bang and the window glass blew out which was so very frightening. I was so worried for my cat as I didn’t know where he was and I hoped he had been able to get out of the house.”

Her cat Oliver was scared by the incident but is in good health and being looked after by a friend.

The former nurse praised the emergency services: “The firemen were amazing and treated me with oxygen and then the paramedics turned up, treated me for smoke inhalation and burns to my throat. They whisked me up to A & E where despite the covid situation I was looked after splendidly and I’d like to thank the staff of AMU2 South for being so utterly caring and wonderful.”

Damaged caused to Rachel's property after an early morning fire last month. Picture: Rachel HicksDamaged caused to Rachel's property after an early morning fire last month. Picture: Rachel Hicks

Rachel described the fear of having to start from square one: “I’ve been very depressed since the fire and it’s hard to come to terms with losing everything you own in the world.”

“I’ll be in emergency accommodation for at least 6 weeks and then from there I don’t know where I will go as my house is currently unsafe with burned electrical cabling and a ceiling collapsing.”

To help out, her friends set up a gofundme which Rachel said was “so heart warming and touching”.

Visit Rachel’s GoFundMe here.


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