A ‘hoarder’ escaped her burning terraced home with singed hair minutes before the fire brigade arrived.
The blaze had taken hold of the first floor of the two-storey home in Hardy Road, Wimbledon, just before 10am, but had not spread to neighbouring houses.
Fire strikes meant it could have been a very different story, as the fire took hold just 20 minutes after fire crews returned to work after a 24 hour strike - the latest in a row over pensions.
Next door neighbour Laura Price was in bed when she heard a neighbour scream for her to get out the house.
Ms Price said: "I smelt something I thought was tarmac but I couldn’t see anything out of the window.
"Then I saw flames.
"I threw something on and flew out of the front door - the trees were on fire."
More than 20 fire fighters fought for an hour and a half on Friday, June 13, to contain the blaze thought to have been started by a candle.
The home owner, a woman in her 60s, had got out of the house before fire fighters from Wimbledon, New Malden, Mitcham and Tooting stations arrived.
She was taken to hospital with singed hair and smoke inhalation.
The fire, which began on the first floor of the house, destroyed a large amount of the first floor and meant the roof was destroyed.
Mitcham fire station manager Jeff Lisle said: "Crews were called at 9.49am.
"Wimbledon watch manager Stuart Butler said it was clear there was a serious fire in progress so we launched an immediate attack.
"We used four pumps and an aerial ladder."
Mr Lisle said they identified it as a hoarding premises which made it very difficult for fire crews.
He said: "It makes it very difficult for fire fighters to extinguish the fire because of hoarding issues."
Piles of cardboard boxes could be seen stacked in the front room window of the privately owned home in south Wimbledon, with piles of used newspapers lying in the hallway.
About two foot of debris was removed from the gutted upstairs rooms by fire fighters, who threw it out of the top windows into the front garden.
Neighbour Ray Price said he had reported the woman to Merton Council on numerous occasions because he said the amount of detritus was dangerous.
He said: "When I came home from work and saw the fire I thought ‘I told you so.’"
The home-owner was taken to hospital by ambulance suffering from smoke inhalation and singed hair.
Free home fire safety checks are available by fire fighters. For more information visit london-fire.gov.uk/homefiresafetyvisit.asp.