Man braves flames to save mother from Poringland fire
- 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.
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.'
"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.
"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.
"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.
"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."