Families fled as fire in roofspace of derelict Porthill property spread
FAMILIES had to be evacuated when a fire broke out at a neighbouring property.
Couple Neil and Hazel Poyser were forced to flee when smoke started billowing into their terrace house in Benson Street, Porthill.
And neighbour Amanda Hendricks and her two children also had to escape as the flames threatened to spread.
Crews from Sandyford, Burslem and Hanley tackled the blaze, which started in the roof space of an empty building shortly before midnight on Wednesday.
Neil, aged 46, dialled 999 after smelling burning.
He said: "It was the middle of the night and I heard a loud bang. I didn't think much of it at first but then I started to smell the smoke.
"I opened the loft hatch and smoke started pouring out. I thought my house was on fire.
"I called the fire brigade straight away and closed the door."
His wife Hazel, aged 41, has recently had a stroke and has reduced mobility.
Neil said: "It was really worrying because my wife can't move too well. If the house had caught on fire, we wouldn't have been able to get out very quickly."
Firefighters forced entry into the derelict house and an investigation revealed the blaze had been sparked by an electrical fault.
Neighbour Amanda, who shares an adjoining house with her two sons, aged four and 18, was woken by the noise.
She said: "I woke up to loud banging on the front door.
"I opened my bedroom door and I couldn't see for the smoke. It completely filled my house.
"I made my way downstairs and a fireman told me to grab my sons and get out straight away.
"My eldest son carried my youngest out and we went outside and watched from the street. I couldn't believe it, it was really scary."
Amanda's youngest son has asthma which was triggered by the smoke.
She added: "I've given him his inhaler and he seems ok now, but he was very shaken by the ordeal.
"I can't believe this happened. If someone hadn't called the fire services we could have been killed.
"The smoke is very dangerous and the fire could have spread and trapped us.
"I lay awake all night thinking about how much worse it could have been.
"I really thought my house was on fire."
The family spent the night on their neighbours' sofas and Amanda returned yesterday morning to assess the damage.
She said: "It was still really smokey when I got in. You could smell it and the alleyway between the houses has holes burned right through it. It must have been really bad."
Firefighters called the police after initially finding potentially suspicious evidence but they now believe the fire was accidental.
A spokesman for Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service said: "All persons were accounted for."
A Staffordshire Police spokesman said: "Following an investigation it was established that there were no suspicious circumstances, it was an electrical fault."