Dog hides in cupboard to survive blaze

Jackie Heys with dog Lilly Phoenix after the fire at their home on Blackpool Road near Newton
Jackie Heys with dog Lilly Phoenix after the fire at their home on Blackpool Road near Newton
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A COUPLE who lost their daughter to a rare form of cancer have now seen their home destroyed by fire.

But Jackie and Ian Heys say they have not lost all hope after their Chihuahua Lily scrambled into a kitchen cupboard and hid under a blanket for 15 hours as the blaze raged in the bungalow and was later pulled from the wreckage by firefighters.

The couple’s only daughter Rachael died in February 2001 suffering from a rare form of soft tissue cancer.

And Mrs Heys, a mum-of-six, is taking comfort from the fact they were able to salvage photos and mementos of the eight-year-old’s life.

She said: “The flashbacks are awful from the night.

“But we managed to save photos of Rachael and mementos which are kept in a box like her locks of hair and jewellery.

“We will never forget her, she is still very special to us. Her things are singed and damaged but at least we’ve still got them.”

One of their four dogs perished in the blaze and two managed to escape as the fire took hold but Lily was discovered by firefighters inside the Newton-with-Scales home the following morning.

Her survival raised Mr and Mrs Heys’ spirits as they spent Christmas in a barn at the bottom of the garden.

Mrs Heys told The Gazette: “Out of all this tragedy, she is the miracle. She’s risen from the ashes. We’re going to call her Lily Phoenix now.”

The fire broke out in their home on Blackpool Road at around 7pm on Tuesday December 20 after the couple left to go out for a meal.

It is thought the blaze may have been started by a candle blown over when they closed the front door.

The couple received a phone call about the fire soon after they had left the bungalow, which they moved into just over a year ago after 58-year-old Mr Heys finished building it. The blaze took hold quickly and the roof as well as every room in the house – apart from one bedroom and the bathroom – was destroyed.

Mrs Heys, 55, added: “We went to the back door of the kitchen and my son kicked in the patio door.

“My husband tried to get in but it was thick, black smoke and there were flames so we couldn’t get in to rescue them.

“The fire was roaring.

“We managed to break the front door down and get Rachael’s dog, Leona out.

“One of the Chihuahuas, Maisie, who is pregnant, managed to jump over the pen. She got out of the house and ran towards us.

“But another Chihuahua Lucy, who was also pregnant, died, it’s so sad.

“We thought Lily had died too and asked a fireman to retrieve her body the following morning.

“Then he walked towards us with her in his arms and she moved.

“He’d found her in the kitchen cupboard. She was as black as coal. I held her and cuddled her, then she went up to the fireman and started jumping up at him, almost as if to say thank you.”