Heroic Alfie saves couple from blaze

The burned out remauns of John Tootills home at Maple Farm, Westby
The burned out remauns of John Tootills home at Maple Farm, Westby
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A Fylde businessman has told how his life was saved by his pet dog during a fire at his home.

John Tootill, of Maple Farm at Westby with Plumptons, was today back at his nursery business after the fire which has totally wrecked his house at the site off Preston New Road.

John Tootill outside his home pictured with his dog, Alfie, who raised the alarm.

John Tootill outside his home pictured with his dog, Alfie, who raised the alarm.

John was asleep in one of the two ground floor bedrooms at the wooden bungalow when fire broke out in the loft space around midnight on Saturday.

The destruction of the home he has lived in for 32 years has followed a stressful few months for the anti-fracking campaigner.

He has fought against Cuadrilla’s application to drill and frack for gas on land close to his home and business and is currently being prosecuted by Fylde Council for anti-fracking signs which have been displayed on his land.

He is due back incourt on May 19.

The heat and flames were obviously rising up from the roof so I did not know for a while that anything was wrong

John, 61, told how he was woken by the barking of his nine-year-old Alsatian Alfie who sensed the danger above.

The dad-of-two said: “Alfie is the hero.

“We had smoke alarms fitted but the fire was in the roof and when I woke up there was no sign of a fire, no smoke , no smell. All I could hear was Alfie barking and a sound like heavy hail on the roof.

“The heat and flames were obviously rising up from the roof so I did not know for a while that anything was wrong.

“The water started coming through the ceiling so I jumped out of bed to get a couple of buckets.

“I just thought there was a leak in the pipes. Some of the lights suddenly went out and I thought that was due to the leak. I glanced outside and there was an eerie glow in the car park. So I went out and saw the whole of the roof on fire. I was astonished.

“The ground floor seemed totally unaffected at that time, just the roof on fire.

“I ran back in to get my partner Nicky out, she had already got up and I grabbed a few things before going back outside and calling the fire service.

“I looked back in and I could see the wooden roof joists in the lounge ceiling glowing red. I realised then that the whole ground floor ceiling was about to come down.

“I was standing there in just my jeans and wellies when the fire engines came. The ceiling fell in and the whole house went up.

“All you could hear was double glazing units exploding and aerosols from the kitchen going off.

“The firefighters were great. They struggled at first to get water for the two engines and the turntable ladder, but the duck pond was nearby so they used that.”

He said thankfully no-one was hurt and no-one suffered smoke inhalation thanks to the early warning from Alfie.

But John said he had virtually lost all his possessions in the inferno which is currently thought to have been started by an electrical fault.

He said: “I have just a few clothes in carrier bags. They are my wardrobe now. All the furniture has gone.

“Earlier that evening my little girl had been looking through family albums and photographs and they were in my mind when I ran in to grab what I could. Possessions can be replaced, but mementoes like that and people cannot.

“I am just grateful that my children were away at the time and that Alfie woke us up.

“He saved us.”

He said luckily the wind carried the flames away from his nursery office right next door and although his business currently has no telephone or electricity due to the fire, the family were back trading. On Sunday I had to buy shirts and pants, a new phone and even a toothbrush,” he said. “I had nothing.

“The insurance people have been brilliant so far and they have put me up at Ribby Hall for a while. I would really like to thank the whole community who have been so helpful.

“I have had cards and offers of help from so many people. It is wonderfully heartwarming.

“The next few weeks will be spent trying to sort out this mess but I remain grateful that no one was hurt.

“For now it is business as usual at Maple Farm and we are hoping to get an electrician to come down soon to get the power and telephones back on.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue said: “Crews from Blackpool arrived with two fire engines to find the house well alight.

“They called for the aerial ladder platform and used water jets on the fire.

“The cause is now being investigated but it seems to have started in the loft.”

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