A team of landscape gardeners did everything they could to try and help a 72-year-old woman trapped in her upstairs bedroom as fire engulfed her home.
Ryan Rice, owner of Grassmasters landscapers, said he only wished he and his employees could have done more to get Janet French out of the burning property in Dochart Place, Polmont on Monday afternoon.
Ryan and the lads were in the street carrying out work for a resident when the fire broke out.
He said: “It was the first day of a fortnight’s job and we were working in the front garden. Just after 12pm we smelled smoke and thought maybe it was a barbecue.
“Then we heard a woman screaming from her top bedroom window, she was shouting on us for help. John, Alec and I ran over to help and the flames were right up the hall. We told her to jump out the window, that we would catch her, but she wouldn’t jump.
“We kicked the door in but the fire was too strong and there was too much smoke. We got ladders up against the wall, but they just folded because of the heat – they melted under me.
“She was screaming at us hanging out of the window – we were helpless. We tried our best and tried everything we could, but she was covered in black smoke and we heard window after window smashing with the heat.
“We had to come away for our own safety. All the neighbours were shaking our hands saying we were heroes for trying. I just wish we could have got her out.”
Niall Simpson (36), of nearby Breadalbane Place, joined Ryan and his team in the rescue effort.
He said: “I noticed the smoke when I pulled into the drive and saw the gardeners approaching with a ladder. It was at this point I rushed up the road to help and saw the woman screaming for help from the top right window.
“Ryan set up the ladder and beckoned her down while John went around the back to see if he could get in. Only once the woman was unable to use the ladder did I decide to try the front door.
“Her screams got louder and louder and I made the decision to kick the front door in. I was met with an interior glass door and a wall of flames and thick plumes of black smoke which were impassable.
“This is something all of us are going to have to live with as we were all within earshot of her last moments.”
Firefighters arrived at the scene shortly afterwards, but Janet sadly died at the scene.
A total of nine fire appliances sped to the street to deal with the burning house and were still damping the premises down well into the afternoon.
A Scottish Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson said: “Operations Control mobilised a number of fire appliances to Dochart Crescent where firefighters extinguished the fire.
“Sadly a woman was found to have passed away at the scene, and our thoughts are with those affected at this time.
A Police Scotland spokesperson stated Monday’s incident resulted in a 72-year-old woman sadly dying at the scene and a joint investigation is now underway to establish the full circumstances surrounding this fire.”
A resident of the street said: “It’s awful when something like this happens to someone you know. She was a nice lady who would never pass you in the street without talking to you.
“I used to see her a lot walking the dogs with her husband.”
It is believed Janet’s husband Gerry and his dogs are now being temporarily accommodated by neighbours.
A Just Giving page has been set up to help the Gerry, who is now homeless, and has already collected almost £3000.