Published: 11:00, 07 July 2017
By David Gazet and Guy Bell
A blaze which damaged two properties and left a man injured in Headcorn was caused by an out of control bonfire.
Firefighters descended on a bungalow in Forge Lane, near the junction with High Street just before 4.30pm yesterday afternoon.
Herve Emess was burning scrap in his back garden when embers spread to a nearby shed.
The 42-year-old and his wife had been preparing to move to the Lake District at the end of this month.
He said: "I was cleaning out the back of the yard because we are moving out and the end of July and I was burning bits of wood.
"It was only small but bits were spitting out onto the shed and I tried to put it out with water from the hose.
"At this point I decided to go and see the neighbour and I called 999."
Mr Emess, a photographer, was made to wait 40 minutes before fire crews responded to his emergency call.
He added: "The fire station isn't far from here but I waited 10 minutes, 15 minutes and I was asking where they were.
"Twenty minutes passed, then 30 and it was 40 minutes before they got here. They took ages.
"I had all my photography stuff in the house. I had an Apple computer, two Nikon cameras and a drone."
Bradley Crouch, co-owner of Crouch Designs in Forge Lane, spotted the huge flames from his kitchen store and went to help.
The 29-year-old said: "There was lots of smoke and I ended up jumping onto the roof to see if there was anyone else.
"The guy kept trying to go back in to do something about it but I had to stop him. He was so upset.
"All of the fences were glowing red, they were completely gone."
Crews from eight fire engines wearing breathing masks, used hose reel jets, main jets, fog spikes and a compressed air foam system to prevent the fire from spreading through the roof void above the properties.
A fire service height vehicle was also sent to fight the blaze from above. High Street was closed in both directions until the early evening.
The homeowner was treated for burns to his feet but no one was seriously injured.
Headcorn resident Helen Lewis said: "I saw the fire as it had just started as I was collecting my daughter from an after school club. When I went to get her at 4pm there was no sign of a fire, by 4:20pm on our way back to our friend's house the fire was visible from Forge Road and ash was billowing out to nearby streets.
"The fire was getting bigger and bigger in front of our eyes. A group of men who worked in shops nearby came out to direct and stop traffic on the high street and along Forge Road.
"We knocked on doors of the nearby cottages to tell them what was happening and then one man shouted that the area needed to be evacuated as there was a gas canister in one of the outbuildings."
Mrs Lewis' father-in-law Chris was visiting from Wales at the time of the blaze. Mr Lewis, who works as a fireman, went into a flat above the old NatWest bank which had been seriously smoke damage and took a man to safety.
There is an on-call fire station in Headcorn but such stations are not manned around the clock and no one was present at the time of the emergency.
The Cut Above hair salon in High Street has been forced to close its doors due to further notice because of smoke damage and will be calling customers to rearrange booked appointments.
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