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Minster: Family warning after summer house blaze

A horrified mum woke to discover the family summer house on fire just metres away from where her son and his friend were camping in the back garden.

Alex Harding, whose partner Jeff Bennett was away in London, was at home in Augustine Road, Minster, when a neighbour knocked on the door after hearing a smoke alarm.

The fire started at around 3.50am and soon became out of control.

Terrified mum-of-four Ms Harding says she raced outside to get 11-year-old Harry out of the caravan, where he was enjoying a sleepover with his friend, Adam.

"The first thought was the children, I went on autopilot," she said. "It was a small fire in the corner of the summer house but in the time I went through the side door to the garden and called the fire brigade - around three minutes - it was completely out of control.

"Luckily we didn't have a petrol lawnmower in there; there was nothing left - it even melted the Segway."

The summer house was used as an arts and crafts space for children Scarlet 12, Harry, and 9-year-old twins, George and Louie. It also contained exercise equipment.

The Harding-Bennett family want to warn others (3647842)
The Harding-Bennett family want to warn others (3647842)

Flames of 20ft leapt into the air as the fire also engulfed a garden bench and melted bird feeders.

"I thought the fire may spread along the garden," Ms Harding said. "It was terrifying."

Scarlet, who was woken by the drama, said: "I keep thinking what if it had been in the house. I was really scared."

Harry and Adam say they thought it was exciting at the time, but Ms Harding says it will take a while to sink in.

"I will take them out for some supper tonight to get them out of the house," she said.

The 41-year-old stayed with the children at the end of the garden until fire crews made it safe for them to walk past.

Two fire engines arrived quickly and contained the blaze, which also damaged an outside water supply used for animals housed at the end of the garden.

Ms Harding thinks the fire was started by George's Segway, which was on charge overnight.

"We have charged it in the house before," she said. "We are so lucky. We bought the Segway three years ago and haven't had a problem with it before, although we thought it may need a new battery.

"We will never charge anything overnight, now. I want to warn other people to take appliances off charge when they are finished. The fire brigade were brilliant and my neighbours have been so good."

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