Neighbours tell of attempts to rescue Gateshead woman from blaze
May 12 2009 by Sara Nichol, The Journal
A PENSIONER was killed after a blaze ripped through the home she shared with her elderly sister. Elva Fairless, believed to be in her early seventies, died after the fire broke out in her first-floor bedroom at her house on Windsor Terrace, Crawcrook, Gateshead.
Her sister, known locally as Alison Jefferson, managed to escape from a downstairs room and last night was still being treated for smoke inhalation at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead.
Neighbours desperately tried to reach Ms Fairless but were fought back by the flames and billowing smoke, which engulfed the staircase.
Police, fire crews and paramedics were called to the house at around 4.30pm on Sunday but pronounced the victim dead at the scene. Enquiries are ongoing as to how the fire started but police believe there was no third party involvement.
Carl Bass, who lives two doors down from the sisters, said he got into the property after his wife noticed smoke coming from a window.
The 34-year-old said: “My wife first noticed the smoke and thought it was someone having a barbecue.
“I ran around the front of the house and went through the front door, which was open.
“I tried to get up the stairs but the flames had engulfed the staircase and were about three quarters of the way down the steps. There was no way I could have got up there.
“When I got in the house I was shouting for them both but I didn’t get any response.
“It’s an absolutely awful thing to happen. Elva was bed-ridden and I think the two of them had lived in that house all their lives.” Residents in nearby houses were evacuated for nearly two hours and had to stand on the streets as smoke filtered through roof cavities.