GORDON Britton says his mother-in-law’s heroism was all that saved him from the fire that devoured most of their Garden Suburb home early yesterday.
Stirred by a smoke detector, 70-year-old Marlene Whyment woke her son-in-law by bashing on the outside of his window after realising flames beneath the floor had separated them.
After trying to put out the fire herself and then raising the alarm, Ms Whyment woke her son-in-law, who escaped through the window.
Mr Britton hailed Ms Whyment as a hero yesterday, saying there was no doubt she made the difference between his survival and an even more tragic fire.
‘‘If it weren’t for my mother-in-law I’d be dead,’’ he said yesterday.
‘‘I heard the crackling and popping and just pulled up the duvet.’’
Ms Whyment said she had simply been mindful of her daughter Sandra, who was staying elsewhere for work.
‘‘It just all happened so fast, you really don’t think about it,’’ she said.
‘‘To be quite honest all I could think about was my daughter.’’
A NSW Fire and Rescue spokesman said four crews attended about 12.30am, but were unable to prevent damage to more than half of the Marshall Street home.
Joining his wife in Australia less than six months ago from England, Mr Britton said the fire had robbed them of some of the things they had bought as they established their life together.
But unable to enter their home yesterday as police investigated how the fire began and whether the building was safe, Mr Britton said the greater loss was family mementoes.
‘‘Photographs, things like that,’’ he said.
‘‘At least no one was hurt and we’re all OK.’’
Sandra Britton, who was away at the time of the fire, said neighbours had told her it was ‘‘like a bomb’’ as it engulfed the rear of the house, including two gas bottles on the destroyed back deck.
She said she was unable to thank her mother enough for the bravery that saved her husband.
‘‘[My mother] was just fearless,’’ Mrs Britton said.
‘‘She had lightning reactions.’’