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Residents flee blaze after dryer overheats

PUBLISHED: 16:59 05 August 2009 | UPDATED: 10:56 23 August 2010

SHOCKED residents witnessed people running from a blazing flat after a tumble dryer overheated and caught fire. The first floor property in Jenkins Close, next to Lawrence Square, Northfleet, was severely damaged by flames and smoke during the fire, whic

SHOCKED residents witnessed people running from a blazing flat after a tumble dryer overheated and caught fire.

The first floor property in Jenkins Close, next to Lawrence Square, Northfleet, was severely damaged by flames and smoke during the fire, which started at 12.45pm on Monday.

The owner of the flat was seen running from the building with a tea towel over her face, as her boyfriend warned other residents in the block of flats to get out.

Crowds gathered outside the property as the fire took hold, and three fire engines arrived to fight the blaze.

Michelle Belcher, 26, who lives in the block of flats, said: "I didn't know anything about it until I heard a knock on the door and it was the owner's boyfriend saying 'get out get out, there's a fire.'

"I got hold of my little three-year-old girl and we ran out. I was more shocked than anything. I didn't know what was going on.

"When I got outside, I saw flames coming out. The smoke was pitch black. Then the windows started coming out. The flames were massive."

Witness Melissa Manley, 17, who lives nearby, added: "I saw just really black smoke coming out of the top window. Then I saw people come running out. I saw a woman with a tea towel over her face to protect her from the smoke."

Firefighters used breathing apparatus to enter the building and fight the blaze, which also caused smoke damage to the flat below and the hallways.

The distraught owner was being comforted by friends as firefighters remained on the scene to clear the flat of any debris, and the Red Cross Victim support unit attended.

A specialist height vehicle was used to check the outside of the flat was safe before they left the scene at 3.30pm.

Another neighbour, a 33-year-old disabled woman who did not want to be named, lives in the flat underneath.

She said: "I heard the fire alarms going off, but they are always going off as they are so close to the kitchen so I didn't think anything of it.

"The next minute a man was knocking on the door telling us there was a fire.

"I normally use a wheelchair, but I didn't have time to get into it.

"I just had to leave. I haven't had a chance to get inside, but I don't know what damage there is to my flat."

Watch manager Lawrence Pater from Thames-side fire station, Northfleet, said: "The fire was caused by an overheating tumble dryer. There were working fire alarms fitted at the property, and the occupiers did the right thing in getting out straight away.

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