“It sounded like explosions”: Residents of the Bemister Road Fire speak to Nerve

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Students and their neighbours had to evacuate early on Saturday morning after a fire started in a student house on Bemister Road.

The fire started after a ceramic heater was left too close to a blanket, which then caught fire with someone asleep in the room with it.

DWFRS station manager Stuart Granger described the students as “very lucky” and praised them for raising the alarm with their housemates, potentially saving their lives.

The room was destroyed by the fire, whilst smoke damage affected the rest of the house. Credit: Emmy Whybrow

One of those students, Emmy Whybrow a Psychology 2nd year at BU, describes the terrifying moment she awoke during the fire.

“I just heard screaming and shouting from all the girls in the room telling us to get out of the house. I grabbed my phone once I realised what happened and called for the fire brigade.”

Another BU student, Beth Dean a Multimedia Journalism 2nd year, lives next door and woke up after Emmy and her housemates shouted through the letterbox to warn them of the fire.

“You could hear the windows blowing out from the heat, it sounded like explosions… really scary at 5 am to be woken by a girl screaming fire through your letterbox.”

The fire destroyed the room it started in and caused smoke damage throughout the house, although the kitchen is damage free due to a self closing fire door.

Two sides of the same fire door, closing doors on your way out can slow the progress of a fire. Credit: Emmy Whybrow

The students have since been rehoused by the Red Cross and the Council but the emotional effects are still fresh.

“I can’t even describe how I’m feeling.” Emmy says, “It goes from feeling like it never happened, to forgetting it did, to hysterics as I can’t believe I survived, to the what ifs.”

Looking forward she really wants to stress the importance of fire safety, echoing messages from the Dorset and Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service.

“I want people to learn three things that we learnt. 1. Make sure your fire alarm is on the ceiling not the wall. 2. Make sure that you don’t wedge fire doors open.  3. If you ever encounter a fire. Yes get out quick but if you can remember please try and shut the door behind you. It helps control the fire and keep it contained.”

Four fire crews were needed to eventually stop the blaze. Credit: Dorset Fire Rescue Service

DWFRC sent four crews to tackle the fire, which spread through the house in just 8 minutes, they too are preaching fire safety.

“The message is get out, get the fire brigade out… If you get a chance to close the door behind you as well, that will help reduce the spread of fire throughout the premises, but can’t blame them for just getting out. It grew so quickly it was important that they did that.”

“Even in your domestic property, your normal bedroom door, if you just shut that it will hold the fire in check for a short period of time.”

Details of how to test smoke alarms and what to do to in the event of a fire can be found on the DWFRC website.