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Blaze ripped through home as firefighters took strike action
The family of a mother-of-four whose home was destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve is calling for an end to strike action by firefighters, claiming a delay led to the extensive damage.
As the blaze ripped through Emma Benton’s home in Forest Road, Loughton, at 10.30pm, fire crews across Essex were on a planned strike.
Her father, Don Benton, said that his daughter, 42, was upstairs reading her children a bedtime story when she heard the smoke alarm and went down to the kitchen to investigate.
He said: “She ran back upstairs to get the two youngest children. She got them out of bed and took them next door.
“The neighbour called the fire brigade first at 10.36pm.
"Fire officers told me on three occasions that her decision was critical as smoke inhalation kills in two minutes."
The first crew arrived 13 minutes later at 10.49pm, but the second did not get to the address for another twenty minutes, according to the family.
Mr Benton was told that the striking Loughton fire crew had been locked out of the station during the strike and were not notified about the fire until 12.20am.
Mr Benton added: “The second engine took half an hour to get to us. To me, that is a consequence of the strike and unacceptable.
“I was told by Firefighters that, had the Loughton Firefighters not been locked out the station, they would have immediately broken the strike and would have been at the fire within three minutes.
“The Loughton Fire Fighters told me they would have without doubt saved the house from total destruction and probably limited it to just the kitchen.
“I feel that my daughter is a victim of an argument between the union and the government. I am on the side of the fire fighters but this needs to stop. My daughter and grandchildren could have been killed as a result of these strikes.
The Benton family praised firefighters for climbing into the house and saving what was left of the children's presents in an upstairs bedroom.
Ms Benton and her children Mario, Max, Luca and Bella have lost all of their possessions.
However friends, neighbours and family are determined to help.
“Friends have been extremely thoughtful for which we are immensely grateful. Neighbours had a collection in Forest Road and Smarts Lane and by the end of Christmas Day they had collected just over £2000. People are incredible.” Mr Benton added.
“As a family we will get her back on her feet.”
A spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said: "The initial crew was sent from a turnout location in Chigwell and within eight minutes of the 999 call being received, firefighters had arrived and put on breathing apparatus and were inside the house tackling the blaze.
"The way the fire rapidly developed through the roof was the cause of significant damage and it is unlikely that the outcome would have been different.”
Mr Benton disputes this statement.
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