Friends rescue grandma and dog from smoke-filled room

2018-02-02 13:30
Pietermaritzburg fire department station officer Cedric Carls stands with Donna Hickman, who helped to carry Gwen Pieters (far right) and her dog Sparky out of a burning house on Thursday afternoon.

Pietermaritzburg fire department station officer Cedric Carls stands with Donna Hickman, who helped to carry Gwen Pieters (far right) and her dog Sparky out of a burning house on Thursday afternoon. (Chelsea Pieterse)

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An elderly woman and her family’s pets were saved from a burning house after a unattended candle set her room ablaze on Thursday afternoon.

Traffic police cordoned off the bottom of Victoria Road while firefighters worked to put out the blaze and emergency services assessed the woman.

Gwen Pieters (78), who lives with her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren in a house off Victoria Road, was at home alone when the fire started.

Pieters said the family had been through a tough time and had recently had their electricity turned off and their water pressure reduced.

She said she lit a candle in her room for some light but it fell over and soon the two-storey house was filled with smoke.

“It could have been my life,” said Pieters, who suffered minor burns to her right hand and minor smoke inhalation.

“I tried to get out of the door but I just could not see through all the smoke.”

Meanwhile, a friend of the family, Donna Hickman, and her fiancé were driving past just after the fire started and stopped to see if Pieters was alright.

Hickman said they ran to the door and found a weak Pieters battling to get out of the house.

“We had to carry her out,” said Hickman.

After they had moved Pieters to safety, the couple, along with an ER24 paramedic, went back into the house to rescue the family’s two dogs and their cats.

Hickman said most of the animals had managed to make their way out of the house, however, one dog was unaccounted for.

“I found him tucked away in a corner in the house,” said Hickman.

Pietermaritzburg ER24 branch manager Casper Geldenhuys said when his team arrived at the scene, they noticed a cat hiding in the bush, and two others running around the garden, trying to get back into the house.

He said they helped to round the animals up and get them to safety.

Geldenhuys added that Pieters had suffered minor burns to her right hand and had slight smoke inhalation.

Pietermaritzburg Fire Department station officer Cedric Carls said the fire was contained within a few minutes of their arrival.

The team continued to dampen the area to ensure the flames did not start up again.

He said the house was well built and had concrete floors and stairs.

“The way the house was built saved the rest of it from burning,” he said.

He confirmed that fire appeared to have been sparked by an unattended candle.

Hickman said the family had experienced one setback after another and that the house fire was just another terrible thing to have happened.

She said she would try to help the family with anything they needed.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  fire

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