DESTRUCTION was inflicted on a house in East Challow after a fire engulfed its entirety, leaving behind piles of ashes in its wake.

Residents in Field Gardens described the "frightening" moment on Friday night when a tumble dryer sparked flames that gutted their neighbour's home.

Plumes of thick black smoke billowed into the sky at about 7pm but the family, understood to be a woman and her three young children, managed to escape to safety.

Next-door neighbour Michael Cannings, 29, said the mother banged on his door to tell him to evacuate his wife and their young son from the house.

He said: "At that point there was only a bit of smoke coming out, before it engulfed.

"I would like to thank the fire crews - for us to still have a habitable house is incredible, they did an amazing job. The fireman said if it was in the middle of the night with no-one about, they wouldn't have got out. 

"The whole village came together offerring cups of tea."

He said the family had only just moved into the house three weeks ago and were not insured.

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Facebook group East Challow residents posted yesterday: "Our little village last night was a sad place with the horrendous fire in Field Gardens.

"Personally I would like to send love and prayers to the families concerned and thankfully everyone was safe."

Another neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: "It was frightening, really awful, it was just a blaze. It went up in seconds."

She said the fire spread to a neighbouring house's back door and a nearby car.

John Lindon, 78, added: "The flames went up very quickly. It's dreadful, the poor people. I've seen her walking around with a baby in arms and other little ones.

"I've lived here for 50 years and never seen anything like it."

When our reporter visited the scene, house owners Sovereign housing association was boarding up hollow window frames where glass panes had shattered in the heat of the fire.

Inside ash particles were still floating above blackened piles of rubble. 

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Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said it sent crews immediately to the village near Wantage along with specialist support.

Incident commander and station manager Paul Molloy said: “Thanks to the quick actions of the occupier, the family escaped from the fire safely as they followed our advice and got out, stayed out and called the fire service.

"This was a severe fire and the prompt offensive action of the initial fire crews undoubtedly saved the adjoining property."

He said crews continued to hose down the blaze through the night.