PARISHIONERS saved a church from disaster after a candle set its curtains on fire.
The ceiling-high curtains in St Stephen's Church, in Warwick Road, Thornton Heath, caught fire at 11.15am on Saturday.
Father Geoffrey Thompson was among a small group inside the church when the "spectacular" blaze started.
He said: "A candle was placed where it should not have been placed and it was also very windy that morning.
"The curtains went up like tissue paper so it was very spectacular; they burnt out very quickly.
"Fortunately there were about five or six people in the church and they quickly stopped it; people were very good with the fire extinguishers.
"The fire brigade was quick; it was all a bit of a blur but they were here within ten minutes, by which time everything had been put out."
Father Thompson added that no harm had been done and he was "a bit grateful" to see the back of the curtains, which separated the main part of the Anglican church from the lady chapel.
He said: "They were rather old, musty curtains so I was actually a bit grateful as no real harm had been done.
"The curtains won't be replaced and now there is a lovely open view into the chapel."
A firefighter who attended the scene praised the parishioners' quick actions for saving the church.
Watch manager Shaun Howlett said: "Just by fate there were some people on the premises.
"Luckily they managed to put the fire extinguisher on it; they did really well. One lady in particular was cool as a cucumber.
"Apart from one row of pews and some sacrificial timber, the damage was kept really light."
Two crews from Norbury and one from Croydon attended.
Mr Howlett added: "It had the potential to be really bad."