Community rallies round blaze victim

Firefighters at the West View property. (s)
Firefighters at the West View property. (s)

A Clitheroe man whose house was ravaged by fire says he is amazed by the generosity and community spirit shown by local people.

Twenty-seven-year-old James Pratt’s house on West View in Clitheroe was left severely damaged after a fire started in the shed to the rear of his property on Thursday.

The blaze quickly spread to a nearby oil storage tank and then into James’ mid-terrace house causing severe damage to the kitchen, bathroom and lounge. Luckily for James, a quick-thinking neighbour raised the alarm when she spotted the blaze and James, along with his house mate Jack, managed to escape.

“We’d only been out of the building for about three or four minutes, but could see the house filling up with black smoke,” said James, who is a former pupil of Edisford Primary School and Ribblesdale High School and a former student of Clitheroe Royal Grammar School Sixth Form Centre. “It was awful to stand back and watch it happen,” he added. The fact that James’ two cats, Fitz and Simmons, were also still in the property added to his distress, but thankfully they were subsequently rescued by firefighters.

James was particularly upset, however, to lose several irreplaceable items of sentimental value which were in the rooms most severely affected by the blaze.

“There were things on the mantelpiece that I had collected on my trips away to China and Kenya and gifts from friends on the bookcase in the lounge. There was also an item that I had been given by my friend Ben Hennesey’s mum after he passed away,” said James.

“It is also devastating for my neighbours who were badly affected by the fire.”

Now living at his parents’ house on Garnett Road in Clitheroe, James, who is an account manager at Yudu Media in Clitheroe, said he is amazed by how the local community has rallied around in his time of need.James’ work colleague Alan Bretherton (33), of Rishton, has set up a fundraising page and almost £2,000 has already been donated.

“I’ve been so shocked and overwhelmed by all the messages I’ve received on Facebook from people wanting to make sure that I’m OK,” said James.

“I was crazy lucky to escape the fire and now to have all these people helping me out shows what a great community I live in.”

James added that he will be donating any money he raises through taking part in the the Tough Mudder Challenge in July to the local fire service to thank them for all they have done.

The blaze broke out just before 8am on Thursday and caused huge plumes of thick, black smoke to billow into the sky which could be seen for miles around.

Clitheroe Fire Station Watch Manager Dave McGrath said that by the time firefighters arrived at the scene everyone was outside their properties.

“The fire was quite intense and developed very quickly and caused severe internal damage to two of the houses and heat damage to the windows of two other houses. A conservatory at one of the properties was destroyed by the blaze.”

Two fire engines and crews from Clitheroe and one engine and crew from Hyndburn wearing four sets of breathing apparatus tackled the flames using two hose reel jets.

Watch manager McGrath added: “Due to the nature of the fire there was a great deal of thick, black smoke that we also had to clear away.”

Firefighters spent three hours at the scene.

It is believed the fire started accidentally, but firefighters are now investigating the cause.

● To make a donation to James visit www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/JamesRecoveryFund