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Posted by W von Papinešu on March 11, 2003 at 13:42:03:
EXPRESS & ECHO (Exeter, UK) 11 March 03 Snakes Alive!
Pub regular Wayne Mitchell conquered his fear of snakes just in time to become the hero of a fire which threatened his favourite watering hole and its resident python.
Wayne, 30, from Pinhoe, confronted his life-long fear of snakes, ophidiophobia, last week when Heart of Oak licensee Richard Thornton put Duffy, his pet python, around his neck.
In the early hours of Sunday, Duffy was in danger when a fire broke out in a bedroom of the thatched pub and it was Wayne who went to the rescue.
Richard's wife Lynnsey came dashing downstairs to raise the alarm.
Wayne, who had been waiting inside while his girlfriend Kym, the chef at the pub, finished her duties, helped evacuate the building.
As people waited for the fire brigade to arrive, it was realised Duffy was trapped in her tank in a smoke-filled room.
Wayne grabbed a beer garden table and put it underneath the window of the room where the snake was kept. He hauled himself up to the window ledge and climbed in after smashing the glass with his elbow.
Wayne said: "Richard and Lynnsey love the snakes so much and I could see how worried they were, so I decided to go in and rescue Duffy myself. It was very dark and the room was full of smoke," he said. "I knew I was looking for a tank but I couldn't see anything. It felt like I was in there for hours."
Eventually Wayne found the tank and carried Duffy out through the window.
He said: "The tank was heavy because Duffy weighs so much. The lid weighs a lot as well to stop her getting out. I took the lid off the tank to make it lighter. I couldn't see what she was doing because it was so dark."
Wayne said he didn't think twice about being so close to Duffy in the dark. However, if the fire had broken out before he had overcome his phobia he would not have been able to carry out the rescue.
He said: "There was no main reason why I didn't like snakes, it was just a phobia. A week ago there is no way I could have gone in there and saved her because I was so scared of snakes."
The Thorntons also own two corn snakes but they were in another part of the flat and out of immediate danger.
Firefighters put out the blaze at the pub, one of the oldest in Exeter, and said staff and customers were lucky to escape.