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Fire terror for Sompting sisters
It was terrifying for 19-year-old Sophie James when she saw an eight-feet-high “wall of flames” tearing towards her family home yesterday (September 5) as her younger sister raced across fields to raise the alarm.
The raging crop fire which spread through a farmer’s field in minutes was heroically put out just metres from residents’ back doors by firefighters.
A welder who was fixing a combine harvester in a field behind Howard Road, Sompting, started the fire by accident when the corn around him caught fire.
The strong northerly wind whipped up the flames with the dry crops providing the perfect fuel.
Megan James, 16, was walking the family dog Murphy at around noon when she spotted flames in the field across from her.
She said: “It started off really small but then began to move quickly towards our house.
Ross Wood, Worthing fire station commanderFires like that move so quickly what with it being so dry and windy. You certainly can’t outrun them
“I called my sister who was at home with her boyfriend but they didn’t pick up, so I started to run back.”
The courageous teen sprinted with the family dog in tow to warn the others of the approaching blaze.
She shouted out to sister Sophie, who looked out of the window to see eight-feet high flames tearing through the field towards her.
Megan added: “It sounded a bit like rain at first.
“I dialled 999 but then just panicked. I didn’t know what to do. I was thinking about what we needed to get from the house and then we couldn’t find the cat.”
Mum Helen, 50, added: “I was out and got a call from the girls. They were hysterical – I couldn’t understand what they were saying.
“It must have been absolutely terrifying for them.”
A few houses down, granddad Malcolm Maddocks, 68, was having problems of his own.
He said: “I was making a cup of coffee when all the fire alarms went off. I opened the patio door and there was black smoke everywhere.”
Three engines – two from Worthing and one from Shoreham – were on the scene minutes after Sophie’s call.
With the flames setting fire to Mr Maddocks’ shed and engulfing his hedge, firefighters burst through his back gate and set about keeping the fire from the line of houses.
Worthing station commander Ross Wood, said: “Fires like that move so quickly what with it being so dry and windy. You certainly can’t outrun them. "
He added that the blaze was just minutes from taking over people’s back gardens.
“The crews are trained for incidents like this and we worked quickly and decisively to stop it spreading any further.”
Amazingly nobody was injured and barring a couple of singed hedges and damaged sheds, no property was lost.
Megan said: “The firemen were heroes. Without doubt they saved our home and we would like to thank them.”