Man braves flames to save mother from Poringland fire

John Gilbert, inset, worked tirelessly to save his mother and stepfather as a blaze swept toward their Poringland home

John Gilbert, inset, worked tirelessly to save his mother and stepfather as a blaze swept toward their Poringland home - Credit: Sonya Duncan/John Gilbert

A heart-broken city man has spoken of how he battled flames in a desperate bid to rescue his wheelchair-bound mother.

John Gilbert was born in West View in Poringland which was struck by wildfires earlier this week. 

He lived there for 40 years before moving to nearby Windmill Close.

His mother Jennifer Fox still lives in the house with John's stepfather, also called John.

Jennifer and John Fox after escaping the fire at their Poringland home

Jennifer and John Fox after escaping the fire at their Poringland home - Credit: John Gilbert

They were evacuated from the property as flames crept dangerously close as neighbouring woodland burnt.

The delivery driver said: "I got the phone call that nobody ever wants. It was my mum saying 'help me.'

John Gilbert went into the flames to retrieve his mother's wheelchair so he could whisk her to safety

John Gilbert went into the flames to retrieve his mother's wheelchair so he could whisk her to safety - Credit: John Gilbert

"The woodland next to her house was on fire, the field behind her was also on fire and her grass was on fire.

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"I couldn't see the house because of the smoke. It was a horrible, horrible smoke.

"It was so, so hot. I was totally taken aback by it. 

Fire in Poringland. Pictures: Brittany Woodman

An aerial shot of West View in Poringland, which was severely scorched by flames in a fire on July 19 - Credit: Brittany Woodman

"My mum recently broke her spine so I knew that getting her out of the house would be tricky.

"I had to go into the fire to get her wheelchair out.

"My stepfather has recently had a stroke so I had to also get him out of the house.

"The only thing that saved the house was the wind changing direction.

A field fire destroys homes in Poringland during the heatwave.

A house in West View, Poringland - the other end of the close to the Fox's - which was gutted by Tuesday's fire - Credit: Sonya Duncan

"Lucky for my mum, but not so much for those at the other end of the close.

"There was just bright orange flames right next to the houses.

"If it had continued on course the houses would've went. It would have been a disaster.

"It was very emotional."

Thankfully the family escaped with damage to their roof and gazebo, with their garden burned beyond recognition.

Damage to the roof of Jennifer and John Fox's roof after the fire in Poringland

Damage to the roof of Jennifer and John Fox's roof after the fire in Poringland - Credit: John Gilbert

Jennifer and John Fox's gazebo was damaged by falling burning debris

Jennifer and John Fox's gazebo was damaged by falling burning debris - Credit: John Gilbert

"I've been to see the other houses," he added. "It's where I used to play round as a kid but they're not there any more. That was something that got me.

"I'm not one to be lost for words. But I don't think there are any correct words. I couldn't say anything.

"It was a close escape from my mum and stepfather, especially from how fast it was spreading.

"Bricks and mortar can be rebuilt but lives can't."

Jennifer and John Fox's garden after the blaze

Jennifer and John Fox's garden after the blaze - Credit: John Gilbert