NEIGHBOURS today told how they battled to save a woman as her Stafford home went up in flames at breakfast time yesterday, Wednesday.
Residents were alerted by smoke alarms going off at the semi-detached house in Tamar Grove, Western Downs, just after 8am.
Four neighbours tried to break into the house but were unable to save Alison Hatton, aged 53, who died at the scene.
Tamar Grove resident Philip Powell, aged 65, said: “We heard the alarms going off then went outside and saw the smoke. Three other neighbours and myself tried to break down the front door but it was too solid, and the lounge windows were red hot from the flames.
“We broke down the side gate and one of the neighbours grabbed a spade from the garden and smashed the back door in. But we couldn’t get into the house – the smoke was so thick and absolutely black.”
He said Miss Hatton, who lived alone, worked in local government and also cared for her frail elderly father, who lived nearby.
“She had lived here for 20 years or so and she was a lovely lady, very kind and friendly to everyone,” he said. “She was very fond of animals and she was very upset recently when her Scottie dog died – we’d see her out and about every day taking him for walks.”
He said the whole street was shocked by the fire. “Several of the men tried to help and to get into the house, and all the women were standing around crying. It was a scene of general panic, really.”
Three fire crews battled the blaze, and managed to stop it from spreading to the adjoining property, but Miss Hatton's house badly damaged.
Forensic teams from the police and fire service were at the house all day Wednesday examining the scene. The house remained cordoned off today.
The fire is believed to have been caused accidentally, but the exact cause has not yet been established.
A police spokeswoman said the death was not being treated as suspicious and a report will be prepared for the coroner.