December 6 2013 Latest news:
Andrew Fitchett, Reporter
Thursday, August 15, 2013
A teenager who helped his pregnant girlfriend and two stranded neighbours escape from a suspected arson attack has been hailed as a hero.
James Clough, 19, sprang into action after hearing an explosion outside the flat he shares with Alyshia Birch-Green, 22, in Palmer Close, Mile Cross, at around 9.30pm on Tuesday night.
The couple were watching television when they heard what they described as ‘a deafening bang’ - which woke up neighbours in the next road.
Miss Birch-Green said: “We saw flames light up the whole front window and set fire to the front door so I went into the kitchen to call 999.
“I went into a complete panic and wouldn’t leave because I thought the flames would explode through the door if we opened it.
“James just grabbed me and pulled me out through the fire. Then he went downstairs and started banging on the doors and windows to get the other guys out.”
With the fire brigade on its way, Mr Clough realised a man trapped in a top floor flat was asleep, and began throwing stones at the window to wake him up.
Eventually the man woke, but with his front door on fire he was unable to escape. Mr Clough told him to go to the window to avoid the smoke and flames.
He then turned his attention to a downstairs flat where another man was inside. Mr Clough again managed to rouse the man by throwing stones at the window and the man was able to escape safely.
The fire brigade arrived soon after and were able to put out the fire and rescue the man from the first floor flat. He was later taken to hospital.
Mr Clough, an IT student, put down his survival skills to a Prince’s Trust fire safety course he had taken earlier this year.
“It seemed to kick in straight away and I just did what I thought was best - I didn’t really think too much about it,” he said.
But Miss Birch-Green said he had been a ‘hero’.
“If I was alone I wouldn’t have got out that quickly. Everything that happened was in about 15 minutes and James acted so quickly,” she said.
The couple have been staying with Miss Birch-Green’s mother since the fire, but visited yesterday with police who have taped off the flats while investigations take place.
Miss Birch-Green described the flat as being ‘covered in soot and ash’, with all its mirrors and windows smashed or cracked.
Police arrested a 45-year-old man on suspicion of arson directly after the incident.