Essex County Fire and Rescue Service


Off-duty fire officer helps neighbour after chip-pan fire

It's been seven years since Paul Pemberton was a firefighter – but when his neighbour’s chip pan caught alight his training “kicked in”. 

Paul, Impairment and Disability Officer at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service took control of the incident until firefighters arrived.  

The drama unfolded when Paul heard a smoke alarm sounding, last Thursday (13 May). 

Paul said: “I looked out of my window and saw a woman outside her front door across the street with her two children and a neighbour. 

“I haven’t served at a fire station for seven years but it all kicked in. I shouted to my wife to call 999 and went to see if I could help. 

“The woman was quite badly burnt on her arm, thigh and foot and she was in shock. I asked if there was anybody else in the house as I could see smoke coming out, but there wasn’t. 

“I looked in the kitchen and there was a frying pan on the floor which was smoking. I shut the kitchen door, turned off the electrics and shut the front door. 

“I made sure the neighbours either side had left their properties and my wife and I tried to wash off the oil with cold water and cover the burns with cling film.” 

Paul, who moved to Kanturk with his family in 2019, gave a “hand over” to the town’s on-call firefighters. 

He says the incident highlights the dangers of chip pan fires. 

Paul said: “It shows that chip pan fires aren’t unique to Essex – they happen all over the world. 

“My neighbour had tried to extinguish the chip pan fire herself and the burning oil sprayed her. It was lucky it didn’t set her kitchen alight. 

“Take care when cooking with hot oil because it sets alight easily. If your pan catches fire, please don’t try to put it out with water, not even a damp tea towel. 

“Turn off the heat if it is safe to, get you and your family out of your property, closing doors behind you if possible, and call 999.” 

Paul, who was a firefighter in Essex from 1994 to 2014 before joining the fire service’s Home Safety team, used the opportunity to share his knowledge with Kanturk’s fire crews. 

He has offered to help deliver safety messages to the community, visit Kanturk Fire Station to talk to the on-call firefighters and give them more information about the What3Words app, which Essex County Fire and Rescue Service uses to help locate incidents. 

He said: “The What3Words app could prove particularly useful because the area I live in is very rural.” 

There was more drama in store for Paul who met the same on-call firefighters again the following day. 

He had just dropped his son off at school when traffic came to a halt because a cement mixer truck had driven through a bridge and into a river. Thankfully the driver had got out and was being looked after by a nurse. 

Paul, who was awarded a British Empire Medal for services to hearing impaired people in Essex last year, made sure the road was clear for the emergency services and returned later in the day to thank the fire crews. 

He said: “It was the same crew I had seen the day before so they looked at me a bit dubiously! They were there from 9am until late into the evening so I bought them some chips and they were delighted!” 

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