Man dies after flat blaze rescue

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A MAN has died after suffering severe burns during a raging fire in his fifth-storey flat.

Residents of Omega House, in Somers Town, were also evacuated following a bomb scare in a night of drama at the block of flats.

FIRE investigators discovered a number of replica firearms and grenades at the scene of last night's blaze.

Residents from floor five of Omega House were evacuated to the neighbouring Somers Town Sure Start Childrens Centre by police and council officers.

No one was allowed in or out of the building for three hours while Royal Navy Bomb disposal experts confirmed the items, which were found in the flat where the fire started, didn't pose a danger to residents.

Fire crews were called out at just after 3pm yesterday, breaking down a door on the fifth floor and battling through thick smoke to reach a man in his 40s who was trapped inside.

He was quickly removed and taken to Queen Alexandra Hospital, in Cosham, but later died of his injuries.

Firefighters who wore breathing apparatus as they made their way into the building had to contend with thick smoke blocking visibility from the ceiling to the floor.

They said the blazing flat was very small and full of furniture, making finding their way around very difficult.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service group manager for Portsmouth, Kevin Evenett, said his team were taking extra precautions because the fire was in a high-rise building.

He said: 'We are very well trained in dealing with this kind of incident, but fires in these tower blocks always have their own risks.

'On this occasion the fire was contained within the flat but burning fiercely when we arrived, and sadly nothing could be done to save the occupant.'

Mike Hartnell, 70, has lived on the first floor of Omega House for 35 years, said he had seen and spoken to the man who died a number of times.

'I watched them taking him out to the ambulance, and his face was covered by bandages,' he said. 'He was quiet and kept to himself, but seemed to be a decent chap.

'I think he might have been a university lecturer, and he certainly came across like a well-educated person. What happened is just such a shame.'

IT engineer Dan Taylor, 23, lives on the fourth floor and said this was the third fire in the block during the year he had lived there.

'It does feel like there could be a problem,' he said. 'And especially after this people might start to think this building isn't safe.'

There were no other casualties and an investigation into the cause of the fire has begun, but police added that it was too early to say whether its origin was suspicious.

Anyone with more information should contact Detective Sergeant Gary Cable at Portsmouth CID on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.