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‘Hero’ taxi driver rescues pensioner from burning home

Newtownstewart resident John Cairns had a lucky escape from a fire at his home after he was awakened from his sleep by an alert taxi diver.

A 69-YEAR-old from Newtownstewart says he owes his life to a local taxi driver, after he was pulled from a burning house at the weekend.

John Cairns, who lives at Millbrook Lane in the town, had fallen asleep on Saturday evening around 9pm, as he was waiting for Match of the Day to begin on television. And it was then that the accident occurred.

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“The television just blew up,” Mr Cairns stated. “I was going to watch the football and I lay down and fell asleep. The next thing I knew the taxi man was there shouting, ‘Get-up! Get up! Get out!’

“I said, ‘What’s wrong with you?’

“And he said, ‘The house is on fire!’

“The fire alarm had been going off but I couldn’t hear it. Once I hit the bed I was out.

“Thankfully the taxi man busted the front door to come in and get me. I owe him my life.”

Despite being hauled from a burning house, the local pensioner sustained no injuries. Although he was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

“An ambulance came but I said I didn’t need to go to hospital because I knew I was all right,” he added.

However, the local taxi driver was not so lucky.

Humbly requesting that his name be withheld from publication, the local driver admitted he had to seek medical attention following the incident. His throat became inflamed due to the smoke and he has felt sick since.

“I was driving past the house on Saturday evening when I saw the light… I knew John was in the house,” the Newtown man explained.

Immediately dialling the emergency services, the taxi driver went up to the house and tried to alert his neighbour.

“The woman on the phone (999) said that under no circumstances was I to go into the house,” he continued.

“I shouted through the letterbox but there was no answer and black smoke was pouring out.”

It was at the juncture that the local man risked his own life, kicking down the door before entering the blaze.

“It took them (fire service) 15 minutes to get there,” he said. “John wouldn’t have lasted 15 minutes.”

Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) received the call to a house fire on Millbrook Lane at 9.25pm Saturday. Three fire appliances attended the incident, two from Strabane Fire Station and one from Newtownstewart Fire Station. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus extinguished the fire.

Paying tribute to the taxi driver’s actions, NIFRS’s Western Area assistant group commander, Tommy Barr said, “We would also like to commend the swift actions of the passing taxi driver who stopped to help and to remind everyone that if you encounter a fire in your home our advice is ‘Get Out, Stay Out and Get the Fire Service Out’.”

He added, “The cause of the fire is believed to be accidental and the incident was dealt with at 10.19pm.”

• If you are worried about the fire safety of someone in your community you can register them for a free Home Fire Safety Check by visiting the website www.nifrs.org/fire-safety/fire-safety-check-form/ or call 028 9266 4221.

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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