News >> Browse Articles >> Off Beat & Bizarre Incidents


Firefighter Marries the Woman He Rescued

Firefighter Marries the Woman He Rescued

The Daily Mail via YellowBrix

July 28, 2011

UK – When Julia Sbardella’s chip pan caught fire, the last thing on her mind was marriage.

Her only concern was for the safety of her young children as she tried to battle the flames until the fire brigade arrived.

But it was an emergency which would lead to her walking down the aisle after she was quite literally swept off her feet by her ‘knight in shining armour’.

Julia, 45, was so relieved when firefighter Rod Rodwell, 46, turned up in her kitchen that she flung herself into his arms.

The couple kept in touch and love blossomed – and the pair have now tied the knot.

They even honeymooned on the volcano paradise island of Hawaii.

Julia said: ’Our life has been wonderful since we met over a chip pan fire. Rod really was my knight in shining armour.

’As he walked through the door I just flopped into his arms. We have been inseparable ever since really.

’We’ve managed to keep the passion burning in our relationship – it’s a true love story.’

The pair’s chance meeting on May 14, 1998, came after Julia bought a bag of frozen chips for tea and poured them into an oil-filled frying pan on her cooker.

But after getting side-tracked by a phone call from her mother the pan burst into flames in front of one-year-old daughter Annabel and son Alex, six.

She attempted to extinguish the fire herself before emergency crews arrived at her home in Wraxall, Somerset.

Julia, a sales assistant, said: ’I ran to the kitchen and saw flames going up to the ceiling.


’My instant reaction was to protect my children, so I picked up the pan – but the oil splattered all over my arms.

‘In the meantime, Alex had phoned the fire brigade.’

Rod, a retained firefighter with Avon Fire and Rescue Service, leapt into action a few miles away at Clevedon station.

He was first on the scene with his crew and burst through the front door of Julia’s three-bedroom home – hose at the ready.

Rod said: ’I was all suited up and ready to go.

’I opened the front door and she literally threw herself at me with relief. She landed straight in my arms.

’She had third-degree burns all up her arms, so I took her to the truck and treated her.

’I waved goodbye to her as she went off in the ambulance and we smiled at each other.

‘But there was something niggling in me for a few days after and I just could not work out what it was. Something had just clicked that day.’

The firefighter dropped back in to see Julia a few days later – helping to redecorate her burnt home.

But it was not until they met again in a pub a few weeks later that Rod finally plucked up the courage to ask her on a date.

He said: ’Our relationship started from there. We had a lot in common and we were a great match together.

’We moved in with each other, but as we both have children from previous relationships, we decided not to get married straight away.

‘We have had our ups and downs like most couples, but we have always been there for each other.’

Rod moved into Julia’s end-of-terrace home in 2001 and finally got down on one knee and proposed in June last year.

And despite Rod leaving the fire service in 2000 for a career as a high-speed train driver, the pair’s love story was not forgotten.

The two tied the knot at Rookery Manor, near Highbridge, Somerset, on July 13, in front of 40 friends and family.

They surprised guests with a wedding cake in the shape of a fire engine and decorated with flames shooting down the sides.

Julia was given away by son Alex, now 20, and Rod’s daughter, Sharni, was a bridesmaid.

His son Conor, 19, was best man and his younger sons, George, 17, and Toby, 14, were ushers.

But that was not the only surprise on their special day.

After the wedding, Rod whisked Julia away to the volcanic island of Hawaii for their honeymoon – where he has booked a helicopter flight around the islands and a trip to the rainforest.

Julia added: ‘It is a fiery, volcano island – so it was the perfect place for us to go on honeymoon.’