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Cottage Blaze March 1962

Legacy of the blaze......the molten remains of two plastic lamp shades (they were about 15 feet from the flames) are examined by Mr. J. R. Harris, the house father, and Miss B. McGarry, the deputy house mother, following the fire which damaged Rowan House at Beechholme, the children’s home at Banstead on Sunday night.

In less than a minute, ten boys were led from their blazing cottage at Beechholme, the children's home in Fir Tree Road, Banstead, on Sunday night.

At 11.45 p.m. a sister in the sick bay, Miss E. T. McSweeney, saw flames licking out of a window on the ground floor of the cottage, Rowan, opposite.

She smashed the glass of the alarm bell, and the superintendent, Mr. G. A. Banner was the first person on the scene, closely followed by the deputy matron, Miss E. Willox.

They woke the sleeping children, and, with other members of the staff, led them out to the sick bay, where they spent the rest of the night.

TRIBUTE TO THE STAFF

Two fire appliances arrived, and the blaze was put out.

Mr. Banner said: "I dread to think what might have happened if the sister had not seen the flames. I am very proud of the staff and the way they behaved throughout the whole thing."

The blaze began when an armchair by the side of the fireplace caught fire. The flames then worked their way up the walls and out of the window. "Smoke in the room was overpowering," said Mr. Banner. "We used about six fire extinguishers on the lintel above the window."

He added that he thought the closing of Banstead Fire Station was a bad thing. "From my point of view, speed is a necessity here in the event of a fire. The children in this particular house were over 13 years of age. I am thinking what would have happened if they had all been under five years old. They would have had to be carried out, and it would prove more difficult."

"I am not saying anything against the firemen, they did a magnificent job, but if the fire station were nearer, they would have been here sooner."