Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Woman’s kitchen gutted by fire

A WOMAN and her daughter have been left homeless after a fire tore through their Henley flat.

A WOMAN and her daughter have been left homeless after a fire tore through their Henley flat.

Kristina Chochliwska left her hob switched on to cook food while she went to pick up her six-year-old daughter Natalia and a friend, Alicia Taylor, from Trinity School on Thursday last week.

She returned to her flat on the first floor above shops in Duke Street 20 minutes later to find the blaze had destroyed her kitchen.

Miss Chochliwska, 41, said she had prepared the beef and potatoes meal and left the potatoes cooking in a glass saucepan.

“When I got back I opened the door and saw smoke,” she said. “I told the children to stay in the corridor.

“I had prepared dinner early so I could go to the doctor’s and I was only out for 20 minutes. It’s the first time I’ve done that but I wanted to feed the children. I don’t know why it went on fire.”

Three people from the flat above Miss Chochliwska’s escaped from the building after hearing the smoke alarm.

One of them, 27-year-old Zsombor Darabam, a chef at the Loch Fyne restaurant in Market Place, said: “I smelt the smoke and someone was ringing the doorbell.”

Smoke could be seen billowing out of the open windows above Laurence menswear and the Sole Man cobblers at about 3.30pm. The alarm was raised by Jason Kempton, who owns the Sole Man, after a passer-by alerted him.

He said: “When he told me there was smoke coming out I smelt it. I work in a shop with a lot of nasty smells so I didn’t notice it initially but then I heard the fire alarm.”

Four fire engines were called to the scene and firefighters gave Miss Chochliwska oxygen before an ambulance arrived.

Police sealed off both ends of the street and a small crowd of spectators watched the drama from either side of the cordon. There were traffic jams in Riverside and New Street as a result.

Marcus Reay, the incident commander, who is station manager of Henley fire station, said: “The fire was starting to spread into the ceiling and rapid actions from the first crew ensured that the fire did not spread.”

Six firefighters in breathing apparatus fought the flames before using fans to clear the smoke from the property. They then searched the building to ensure everyone was out. Jonathan Taylor, 41, of Greys Road, saw smoke coming out the window of the flat and realised it was where sometimes his eight-year-old daughter was taken after school.

He said: “You can imagine my horror as I was walking down the road and thought she was in the building. Thankfully, she wasn’t in there. She had been walking back from school when she got to the building and saw the smoke coming out.”

A member of staff at Rudi Kartal hairdressers in Duke Street said Miss Chochliwska ran into the salon with the two girls. “She was obviously quite concerned about her flat,” he said. “She barely said a word to us, just used the toilet and was panicking about the fire engine not turning up. The two young girls were quite spooked and scared.”

A number of nearby shops were evacuated by the police as a precaution as the firefighters tackled the blaze.

Ann Hale, a receptionist at the Morgan Clinic, said: “We saw smoke coming out of the window and a lot of people outside in the street. Police then told us to go outside.” Tim O’Sullivan, who owns Sullivans menswear shop, opened an entrance at the back of his shop so fire officers could get on to the roof.

Laurence Morris, who had to close Laurence menswear for the afternoon, said there was no damage to his shop.

“The firemen did a great job and I’m very thankful that everything is okay,” he said. “It was a case of cleaning up and making sure there were no noticeable signs of damage. They didn’t use too much water to put out the fire.”

Lucy Tooher, 25, has agreed to buy the flat next door to Miss Chochliwska’s.

She said: “Thankfully, the sale hasn’t gone through yet. We want to have a look at the flat to see if it’s okay.

Mr Reay said: “All persons from both flats followed the fire service motto of ‘Get out, get the fire service out and stay out’. It might be tempting for owners to go back into a fire but it’s always best to just close the door, get everyone out and await the fire service. The fire was detected by the flat’s smoke alarm, which confirms that working smoke alarms save lives.”

Miss Chochliwska, who rents her flat, has been forced her to move in with her sister, who also lives in Henley.

She said she was “sad” because she is a single mother and might find it difficult to find a new home.

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