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'Paperweight starts blaze' at Sittingbourne house in Periwinkle Close

By KentOnline reporter

An investigation has been launched after a paperweight is believed to have started a Sittingbourne house fire last night.

It is believed the glass object left in direct sunlight could be responsible for the blaze at a three-storey terraced property in Periwinkle Close, Milton Regis, at just after 7pm.

The fire broke out in a top-floor bedroom of the property, with a young woman led to safety through the back garden.

Smoke billows from the bedroom. Picture: Colin Baldock

Around 15 firefighters using breathing apparatus and a hose reel tackled the flames.

Householder Kevin Coles, 36, was in the kitchen on the ground floor at the time of the fire.

His daughter was in the conservatory with the three dogs and his son was playing in the converted garage room on the same level. His wife was at work at the time.

He said: "The fire alarm started going off so I got the kids, then a man knocked the door and said the house was on fire.

"Having two kids and three dogs in the house, obviously you start to panic about their safety.

"We're still in a state of shock. I'd like to thank the man who knocked on the door and all the neighbours that rallied around offered their support..." - householder Kevin Coles

"I told my son to go with the man. My daughter went out into the back garden with the dogs.

"I went upstairs to check the fire and see if I could tackle it myself but it had taken too much of a hold.

"I went outside and checked my son and ran to the back to check my daughter. Someone told me 999 had already been called.

"The firefighters were fabulous, they were amazing. I can't fault them at all. The front bedroom is completely gutted It's mine and my wife's room. We've lost everything.

"There was a glass object on the windowsill that had only been put there a couple of days ago because we were moving things around in there.

"We found somewhere for the children to stay the night but me, my wife and the three dogs stayed on the ground floor.

"It could have been a lot worse. thankfully we had smoke alarms fitted and they were working.

"We're still in a state of shock. I'd like to thank the man who knocked on the door and all the neighbours that rallied around offered their support. We had lots of offers from people to take us in."

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A burnt-out window at the house in Periwinkle Close, Sittingbourne

Cathy Reed, 50, who lives across the road from the townhouse, said: "I'd just sat down and I saw it out the corner of my eye, the flames and smoke.

"I picked up the phone to dial 999, but I could hear someone outside already on their phone.

"It was a young girl on her way home from work who rang the fire brigade.

"Another man walking past knocked on the door of the house and got them to come out and I shouted at him to get the neighbour out as well.

"The man who lives in the house had an older daughter in the back garden with their dogs and he came out with his younger son."

Rubble outside a house Sittingbourne after a blaze

Another neighbour, David Spurling, said: "I walked home from Sittingbourne station at about 10pm and there were still fire engines at the scene.

"The front of the second floor of the building was very, very charred. The window was also completely out."

Two fire crews from Sittingbourne, one from Medway and another from Thameside were sent to the incident.

Crew manager Dan Godley said: "The double glazed window had blown out so it was pretty hot at that point.

"Luckily it was contained to the front bedroom only. The rest of the house was smoke logged.

"There was a dad, his two kids and three dogs inside the property. They were out by the time we got there. They were alerted to the fire by a passer by knocking on the door.

"We had the fire investigation team come down. Nothing is certain, but what we think happened was there was a glass ball, a bit like a paperweight, that they moved recently on to the windowsill above the bed and the sunlight reflected through that."

Firefighters were called to the home in Periwinkle Close, Sittingbourne

He added: "It can have the potential to set fire to things as it has the effect of a magnifying glass. The room itself was completely destroyed.

"Initially we were worried it had spread to the roof - luckily it hadn't.

"We checked the neighbouring properties' loft space and they were OK too. Just a reminder to people not to leave glass objects on window sills."

A Red Cross unit was also sent to help.

Spokesman Sarah Guthrie said: "We were called to support residents. Two volunteers stayed with the evicted couple to provide them with practical and emotional support in a safe base vehicle.

"They were given use of a laptop and advice about the next steps to take."

Video: Fire breaks out at the home in Milton Regis. Courtesy of Colin Baldock

UK Power Networks engineers were also sent to the scene.

A spokesman said: "They were asked to isolate the power supply to enable the fire service to work in safety."

Kent Fire and Rescue Service said the cause of the fire is to be investigated.

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