Published: 10:00, 11 April 2014 |
A panicking schoolboy ignored the flames engulfing his hands and face in a desperate attempt to put out a fire near a shed that housed gas canisters, aerosols and petrol containers.
Edward Hawkins, 14, lit a bonfire in his garden before school to practice the technique ahead of a Scout meeting later that day.
He was alone in the house while his mother Carol took his younger brother George to school and the fire quickly got out of control, setting light to the garden fence and spreading towards the potentially explosive shed.
Neighbours in Wainscott Walk, Wainscott, heard his shouts for help and called firefighters - but they could not reach the blaze at first because of thoughtlessly parked cars.
Now residents have renewed their call for more traffic control measures in the little close after the blaze.
Edward said: "I just remember thinking, I need to put out the fire and I need to get the tools and gas out of the shed.
"Apparently I was shouting, but I couldn't feel anything, I was just panicking and didn't realise how badly I was burnt."
But before Edward could get everything out, a petrol can exploded and soaked him as he was stamping down the flames.
Immediately the fire spread up from his feet, engulfing his clothes and body before blistering his hands and face.
Neighbour Len Cracknell, 74, heard him shouting 'Help me, help, I'm on fire' and called the fire brigade, while Edward ran to the front of the house - rolling on the ground to try and put out the flames.
Neighbours ran to his aid and soaked his burns until paramedics could take over, but Edward was oblivious and kept saying he needed to get back and put the fire out.
Fire, police and ambulance crews arrived in minutes - but none could drive up to the house at the end of the close because cars had parked on opposite sides of the road, leaving a gap too small for the large vehicles to get through.
Unable to get to the hydrant directly outside Edward's home, firefighters had to stretch out over 100 metres of hose reels to reach the blaze.
Mrs Hawkins, 49, said: "The firefighters said to us the two gas canisters still in the shed were seconds off exploding from the heat and if they had, Edward might not be here today.
"To be honest Edward wasn't thinking about himself, he was more worried about how angry his dad would be that the outhouse he built from scratch, and all his tools, had been destroyed.
"But at the end of the day they're replaceable, my son isn't, and I'm just so happy and relieved that he is alive."
Edward was taken to Medway Maritime Hospital, before being transferred to the specialist burns unit at the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead.
He is still going to regular check ups and is waiting to hear if he will need a skin graft on a particularly grisly burn to his thumb.
Mrs Hawkins said: "I'd just like to thank the staff at Medway Maritime, they don't get many positive comments.
"But they did a fantastic job with Edward and even took the time to make sure I was okay too."
The damage is estimated to be in the region of £10,000.
Carol described the moment she realised her son was in danger.
After getting a call from neighbour Tina Farmer to say there was a fire, Mrs Hawkins drove straight home to see a huge plume of black smoke over the top of her house.
Having recently been diagnosed with Graves' disease, where the thyroid enlarges and becomes overactive which can cause increased heartbeat and a great risk of heart attacks, she was told to avoid all stress.
But the mother-of-four said: "I just abandoned my car and sprinted up the road, screaming for Edward.
"The first I saw him he was on a stretcher ready to be wheeled all the way down the road to the ambulance because it couldn't get to the house.
"I was so frightened, I felt like I was going to collapse. All I could hear was Edward saying 'mummy, help me, please help me'".
Firefighters have warned motorists to think before they park.
Strood crew manager Sam Comer said: "Due to a number of vehicles that were double parked in the cul-de-sac, we were unable to get the engine close to the property.
"This resulted in definite delay in firefighting operations, as we needed to lay out 130 metres of hose to reach the garden before we could start tackling the fire.
"There is always the concern that this could result in tragedy if a delay means they arrive too late to save someone from the deadly effects of smoke and fire or another life-threatening emergency.
"I would urge motorists to consider when parking in residential roads whether there is room for fire engines and other emergency vehicles to get through."
Residents of Wainscott Way are demanding more is done to prevent dangerous parking in future.
Roy Wilson has lived there all his life and after years of complaining to the council, in 2011 he and his neighbours put a petition together calling for double yellow lines on the grounds that people parked dangerously and are a hazard in an emergency.
But Medway Council did not paint the road because of a lack of funds. According to a council spokesman, the petition "can only be progressed as and when resources allow".
Claire Hempsey, 44, said: "This is exactly what we were worried about, and it could have been so much worse. It could cost people's lives - it nearly cost Edward's."
John Bennett, 73, said: "People parking here aren't residents. We all get on and use each other's driveways if we need to.
"The people causing the trouble just stick their cars here because it's close to the shops and the pub."
Len Cracknell, 74, said: "I said to one man once, how dangerous his parking was, and he threatened to hit me."
A council spokesman said: "If cars are blocking the road, regardless of the fact there are no restrictions, inconsiderate drivers need to know that their actions could have grave consequences."
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