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Elderly couple rescued by neighbours after their home in South Street in Whitstable is set ablaze by lightning strike

By Aidan Barlow

An elderly couple had to be rescued from a raging fire after their home in Whitstable was struck by lightning.

Fire crews were called to South Street at 3.30am last night after neighbours saw flames coming from the bungalow of Erica and Peter Reynolds.

Neighbours Sharon and Malcolm Browning, who live in a bungalow opposite, were the first to act after they heard the loud crack of the lightning bolt.

Malcolm and Sharon Browning came to the rescue of the elderly couple
Malcolm and Sharon Browning came to the rescue of the elderly couple

Mrs Browning said: “I heard the bang above and saw the light flash. I thought it was behind the house. I got up to make a cup of tea, and looked out the window.

“I could see flames coming from the roof, so I dialled the fire brigade and then went over there with Malcolm.”

They went across the road to the front door, where Mr and Mrs Reynolds were in a state of shock.

Mrs Browning said: “He was just opening the front door. His wife is disabled and was right behind.

“Then they walked across the road with us, we gave them our dressing gowns and made them a cup of tea.”

The lightning strike has destroyed the home in South Street
The lightning strike has destroyed the home in South Street

Four fire engines were called to battle the flames along with a British Red Cross support vehicle. Mr Browning said: “You could feel the heat coming from across the road.

“The flames started at the back of the bungalow and took hold so quickly. Ten minutes after the flash and the fire was raging.”

Meanwhile this morning Mr and Mrs Reynolds’ son Ian, 33, was at the property to survey the damage.

He said: “This has been my childhood home, where I have known for 30 years with my sister Lynn.

“The house is absolutely devastated. Everything has gone. Lynn and I still had rooms here, with old photos and pictures on the walls, but it’s all gone.

Ian Reynolds outside his parents' home
Ian Reynolds outside his parents' home

“There was an exit at the back of the house, but it was all ablaze. So they had to get out of the front door.

“We’re so lucky that Sharon and Malcolm came to help, they have been fantastic. They only moved in a few months ago and we didn’t know them until now. I guess it’s a funny way of meeting your neighbours.

“I’m just trying to salvage any few bits that I can, but most of the house has been gutted by fire and water damage.”

His parents were taken by his sister to stay with Mrs Reynolds’ sister, where they are now recovering from their ordeal.

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