Firefighter hurt in Woodbury Common blaze tells of ‘hair-raising experience’

PUBLISHED: 06:30 28 April 2017 | UPDATED: 09:38 02 May 2017

Woodbury Common fire with Exmouth firefighter, Nigel Alford, inset.

Woodbury Common fire with Exmouth firefighter, Nigel Alford, inset.

Archant

An Exmouth firefighter injured in the blaze that ripped through Woodbury Common has told of the ‘hair-raising’ moment he and his colleagues were trapped by the flames without water to fight them.

Retained watch manager Nigel Alford, 45, suffered severe burns to his face when Sunday’s inferno cut off any way of escaping the excruciating heat, flames and smoke when the wind suddenly changed direction and surrounded the group.

Nigel said: “I didn’t think I was going to die, but it was a hair-raising experience. You had to see it to believe it.

“The wind picked up and it was too much. We became isolated. There was nowhere else to go - we were cut off. It went around us, we had to sit tight. Although it was probably all over within 30 seconds, it seemed like minutes for us.”

The five men, who had been with an all-terrain 4x4 vehicle assessing the developing fire, which destroyed more than 100 acres of heath, quickly called for back-up, but the severity of the blaze resulted in their water running out by the time extra help arrived.

They became trapped when the wind changed direction. Married dad-of-three Nigel suffered flash burns to the face and smoke inhalation. He was taken to hospital. His colleagues, also retained firefighters from Exmouth, were injured from inhaling smoke.

Nigel, employed by the fire service for 27 years, is at home recovering from painful blisters to his nose and nostrils caused by the searing heat.

The former breathing apparatus instructor said his injuries were the ‘worst’ of his career.

Read more on the Woodbury Common blaze on pages 6&7.

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