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Teenager forced to leave dog in burning house on Loose Road, Maidstone

A 14-year-old boy was forced to say an emotional goodbye to his much-loved dog before climbing onto the roof to escape a fire at his home in Maidstone.

Rio Orchard tried to lift Lexi, a large bullmastiff, out the window, but she was too heavy leaving him with no option but to leave the six-year-old pet behind.

Carla's son Rio with much-loved dog Lexi
Carla's son Rio with much-loved dog Lexi

Emergency crews were called to the house in Loose Road, after the fire broke out on Thursday afternoon.

Rio, Lexi and a family friend, Danny, were trapped inside as the blaze tore through the terraced home.

The teenager was on the top floor of the house with the dog when the fire started but was unaware it was happening because he was playing games with a headset on.

He was alerted to it when he heard a loud explosion and realised smoke was filling his room.

Rio tried to lift the dog out the window before jumping on to the roof himself but she was too heavy.

His mum Carla Orchard, who shares the house with her five sons, said before he left he gave her a kiss and a cuddle and put her under his bed covered in a blanket before climbing on to the roof to get away from the billowing smoke.

Firefighters attended the incident at Loose Road, Maidstone
Firefighters attended the incident at Loose Road, Maidstone

The 40-year-old said: “He has taken it the hardest. We have all said there was nothing he could do - he would have died if he stayed in there any longer.

"I am so proud of him. As sad as it is I have lost everything, it could have been a lot worse.”

Danny was also able to escape unscathed after heroically trying to go through the flames to rescue Rio.

Firefighters cordoned off part of the road while they tackled the fire and rescued the teenager. They used hose reel jets to extinguish the blaze, before clearing the property with ventilation fans.

An ambulance service spokesman said two teenage patients were treated and one was taken to Tunbridge Wells Hospital for further checks. Both suffered from smoke inhalation.

Gavin Lewis, owner of Lewis’s Fish and Grill, first became aware of the incident when he smelt the smoke from his shop.

Rio had to leave Lexi behind
Rio had to leave Lexi behind

“We noticed it outside and so I went up to see what was going on to make sure somebody had called the fire brigade," said the 39-year-old.

"When I got there there was a young lad on the roof. You could hear the sirens in the background.

“The smoke was just billowing out of the roof. There was no way he could get down without a ladder.

“I just told him to stay there, the fire brigade was on its way. I have never seen smoke like it. The window was like a chimney.

“I asked the boy if there was anybody else inside and he said ‘my dog’ and then I turned around and the fire brigade had just got there.

“The firefighters were amazing. Straight away their ladders were down and they were talking to the boy. They kicked the door in.”

Carla's children in happier times a few years ago. Left to right: Kean, 13, Rio, 14, Kai, 19, Jayjay, 11, Mia, 21 and Marley, 7
Carla's children in happier times a few years ago. Left to right: Kean, 13, Rio, 14, Kai, 19, Jayjay, 11, Mia, 21 and Marley, 7

A tarpaulin was put up near the scene, where crews could be seen trying to resuscitate the dog but sadly they were unable to save her.

Neighbours reported the blaze was started by a toaster and a fire service spokesman later confirmed it believed the fire started in the kitchen accidentally.

The family-of-six are now living in temporary accommodation in Maidstone and do not know if or when they can return to their rented home.

They lost everything, including treasured photos and memory boxes relating to Carla’s daughter Courtney who was stillborn.

A GoFundMe page was set up by Emma Hawkins which has raised more than £2,900 and generous friends, as well as strangers, donated clothes and toys.

Miss Orchard said: "We are settled now and the kids are back at school.

"The amount of support has been absolutely amazing.

"When something like this happens you realise how much good there is in people - it keeps you going."

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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