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Postman helps stop blaze at family home
Published 21/01/13

A POSTMAN helped stop a house from burning down while the owners were on holiday.

Ian Chaplin, 43, was doing his rounds in Common Lane, Binfield Heath, when he heard the noise of a smoke alarm.

When he approached Andrew and Christine Madden’s house he could smell burning.

Mr Chaplin said: “It was about 11am when I walked up to the house and the alarm was sounding.

“I thought that they had burnt toast but the curtains were drawn so I banged on the door and there was no answer. I then pushed open the cat flap and a puff of smoke came out.”

He alerted neighbour Roger Murray-Leach and when the pair looked through the rear kitchen window they saw flames coming from the cooker.

Mr Chaplin said: “We broke the window with a concrete cat ornament and I then gave Roger a hand climbing into the house.

“The flames had started licking up the wall and Roger put them out with a couple of bowls of water. It took a couple of minutes.”

Mr Murray-Leach added: “We decided to do it ourselves rather than phone the fire brigade because the house might have gone up by the time they arrived.”

Mr Madden, 38, and his wife were on holiday in his native South Africa with their one-year-old daughter Alice.

The couple only found out about the fire when they came home.

The fire is thought to have been caused by a mouse that was found dead inside the electric cooker — even though the couple have two pet cats that were being fed by another neighbour while the family were away.

Mr Madden, an IT contractor, said: “She feared she might have switched the oven on by mistake but then thought there was no way she could have done that.

“She kept the mouse, which was a bit frazzled like in a cartoon, to show us that it was the mouse and not her fault.

“They had found the mouse at the back of the oven. It had tripped some switch and there was some cat food on the stove that caught alight.”

Mr Madden said Mr Chaplin and Mr Murray-Leach arrived just in time to prevent any serious damage being caused and thanked them with gifts.

Mr Murray-Leach received a bottle of champagne and two bottles of wine and Mr Chaplin was given an £80 voucher to spend at the Bottle and Glass pub in the village.

Mr Madden said: “Ian is not our regular postman as he comes round only once a week but it was such good fortune he was here.”

Mr Chaplin, of Western Road, Henley, has been a postman for 18 years and also delivers in Shiplake, Remenham and Harpsden. His girlfriend Vikki Howells is an assistant at the Facy store in Henley Market Place.

The postman insisted he wasn’t a hero, saying: “I was just in the right place at the right time.”

Published 21/01/13

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