RESIDENTS of Mercia Avenue in Charlton have spoken out about the ‘horrendous’ and emotional scenes they witnessed in the early hours of this morning (Saturday, July 24).

Firefighters from seven locations were mobilised to the scene at 4.37am to reports of a lightning strike which had set fire to the roof of a semi-detached house.

The property, and adjoining home were badly affected by the flames, but thankfully all occupants were evacuated safely.

Michael Riley, 55, whose home was one of those affected described the process as an adrenaline rush, as he scrambled to ensure that his own family, as well as the twom woman in the next door property were safely outside.

Paul Kneller, 40, lives just across the road from the affected properties.

“There was a massive bang,” he said. “The roof was shaking. People were coming onto the street, trying to wake everybody up.

“It started off just a little bit on the right hand side, and within ten minutes it was well alight and spreading very quickly. It’s just horrendous, watching it go. You just watch it spread and spread and there’s nothing you can do.”

Sue Bromley, 69, also lives across the street and said it occurred between 3.30 and 4am.

“You see it on the news, but you don’t think it will happen to us,” she said. “They are all ok, that’s the main thing. We are a really tight community, everybody was out.”

Alan and Sandra Blowers, both 66, have lived on the street for 26 years.

Alan said: “I heard the bang. I thought it was our tree and looked out the window and heard somebody screaming and banging on a door.

“Everybody was out and safe, that was the main thing. We are a good, tight community and when you find out about something like this you turn up and help.”

Sandra added that two sisters live at the property where the fire began.

She said they have lived there for more than 25 years and they were “distraught” and desperate to save precious family photographs.

Sandra continued: “It’s such a quiet area, nothing happens round here. I well-up when I look up there. It could have been any of us. I still can’t believe it.”

Resident Ivan Perryman, 76, who is a retired engineering lecturer at Andover College, said: “I was awake most of the night listening to the thunder but I did not really see any lightning which was the amazing thing.

“The last clap of thunder shook the house and shook me, and I like a storm!”

Cec Jones, 92, is originally from Swindon but has lived just a few houses down from the affected properties for 20 years.

“I sleep at the back so I didn’t see the lightning, but I can recall that it sounded almost as if there were two strikes.

“I lived through the 1940s, when the sirens went you expected this sort of thing! If you live through the war, [thunder storms] are not scary.”