A pensioner today relived the moment he was rescued from his smoke-logged flat by firefighters as fire raged through a former hotel.
Terrified Les Moss, 66, praised firefighters for saving his life after he was left hanging out of the window of his first floor flat on Palatine Road, Blackpool, unable to escape the thick black smoke in his hallway after a suspected arsonist targeted the building.
He was woken up by an alarm at around 6.30am yesterday, but found the fire blocking his exit. And because he suffers from arthritis in his legs, the grandfather was unable to climb out of his window on to a ladder. But brave firefighters wearing breathing apparatus went into the property and managed to get to the pensioner, leading him down the stairs and to safety.
Today, detectives are questioning a 58-year-old man from Blackpool on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life following the blaze.
A shaken Mr Moss told The Gazette: “They saved my life.
“The police were here first and they did a very good job but when I couldn’t get out my door I went back inside, then someone grabbed me from behind and took me out.
“I tried to open the door and all of a sudden the smoke came in and hit me. That’s when I breathed it in and started to hang out of the window.
“I suffer from arthritis in my legs and couldn’t get it high enough to get over the ledge.
“I tried not to panic because that only makes things worse, and I knew I was safe when I heard the fire brigade coming.”
More than 20 firefighters were initially called to the scene and it took two hours to bring the blaze under control, although the fire did not manage to damage any of the flats.
Crews said as well as the rescue of Mr Moss, a family of three escaped the fire by climbing through a basement window and another man managed to get out of the building unaided.
Mr Moss and other tenants received treatment at the scene for smoke inhalation but did not need hospital treatment.
The majority of the damage was confined to the former hotel’s hallways and a joint police and fire investigation is under way to determine exactly how the fire started.
But a spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue slammed the suspected arson attack as “moronic”.
He said: “Arson is a very serious crime and it can kill.
“Not only does it put people in the property at risk, it puts the rest of the community and firefighters in danger.
“It’s only by luck and by chance nobody has been killed.
“It’s a moronic thing to do and we are working closely with the police to establish how the fire has been caused and catch the people responsible.”
Mr Moss added: “It was a shock to me that someone has tried to do this.
“I’ve got no quarrels with anyone and can’t understand why they’ve done it.”
Paul Briggs, station manager at Forest Gate Fire Station, said: “When we arrived we were met with a family who had escaped through a window in the basement, a man had left on his own account and we had to rescue one occupant on the first floor.
“We did put a ladder up but he didn’t want to come down so at that stage we reassured him to stay in the flat and we ventilated the staircase to let him out.
“There’s very severe smoke damage to the premises but the rooms aren’t in too bad a condition. At this stage there’s a joint investigation between the police and fire service to ascertain the cause of the fire.”
Barbara Beckett, landlord of the flats, added: “The police told us the fire doors did their job very well so the fire hasn’t infiltrated any of the flats.
“All the tenants are with family at the moment and we are just trying to establish how we can house them.”
Anyone with any information about the incident should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.