This video shows the moment a Staffordshire house exploded while firefighters were still inside.
It was caused by a dehumidifier in the basement, which the homeowners did not know had been recalled by the manufacturer for a serious electrical fault.
Station Manager Gary Fox, from Abbots Bromley, told of the “truly sickening feeling” of knowing two of his colleagues were still inside after the blast.
However, they were saved by complete chance as they were on the staircase, which acted as a chimney and allowed the gases and smoke to escape.
SM Fox – a dad to four daughters – said: “When we got to the property in Marston Road, Stafford, the occupier was outside on the pavement, unsure where the fire was coming from, but had made his way out after the smoke alarm had gone off.
“I sent two colleagues with breathing apparatus and a hose reel into the house to try and locate the fire, along with two other colleagues when they arrived from Rising Brook.
“I was with a colleague outside the property when we saw conditions change – there was a lot more smoke leaving the house, the volume and energy of which were quite concerning.
“We were just about to call the crew to evacuate them when I saw a rapid expansion of smoke coming from the hallway through the open front door, close to where I was standing.
“As I had previously been a fire behaviour trainer, I knew what was coming next and just about managed to turn my back in time before part of the front of the house exploded.
SM Fox expected to be injured by falling rubble and could not believe he emerged from the debris unscathed.
He said: “I immediately felt sick to my stomach and was very worried about my colleagues.
“For those seconds after the blast, I truly thought I was looking at the real prospect that four colleagues had been seriously injured or worse.
“I entered one of the fire appliances to send an emergency message, when I saw two dazed and blackened colleagues emerge from the property, with the other two about 30 seconds later.”
The dehumidifier had been on since around 8am and the blast caused significant structural damage to the front of the house.
Such was its power, it raised the ceiling in the front bedroom and demolished the wall in the front garden.
SM Fox, who is a retained firefighter based at the station in his home village, has relived the frightening explosion seven years on to mark Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Watts The Danger campaign.
Coinciding with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, Christmas bargain hunters are being reminded to check the safety of the appliances they are buying.
And when they do make a purchase, they should ensure they register their appliance with the manufacturer so they can be informed of any recalls.
They are also urged to ensure cables on Christmas lights and decorations – which are often sat in the loft 11 months of the year – are not frayed or damaged.
And when they leave their homes, SM Fox says it is imperative they turn all lights and appliances off.
The 49-year-old, who has served for 30 years, said of the explosion in September 2013: “This was an extreme and rare event, but shows the importance of ensuring appliances in the home are registered with the manufacturer.
“It’s especially important to check appliances of elderly relatives, especially now as we are all spending a lot more time in our homes due to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Anyone who wishes to check and register their appliance should visit Electrical Safety First at https://www.electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/ For more information and advice visit the Watts The Danger webpage at www.staffordshirefire.gov.uk
In the last five years there have been 835 fires in Staffordshire homes involving electrical items.
The top causes include wiring, cabling, plugs, tumble dryers, washing machines, fridges, freezers, batteries and generators.
Three people have died as a result of those fires and 121 people have been injured.