Pensioner dies in Portsmouth high-rise blaze

FIREFIGHTERS The ladder is sent up to the ninth floor of Nickleby House in Buckland, Portsmouth  last night after a fire broke out
FIREFIGHTERS The ladder is sent up to the ninth floor of Nickleby House in Buckland, Portsmouth last night after a fire broke out
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A ELDERLY man died after a fire broke out at his home in a 17-storey block of flats.

Up to 45 firefighters fought the blaze, which started in the kitchen of the ninth-floor flat at Nickleby House in All Saints Road, Buckland, Portsmouth.

WAITING Evacuated residents watch the drama

WAITING Evacuated residents watch the drama

Five fire engines from Cosham and Southsea and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Incident Command Unit were called out to the fire at the Portsmouth City Council-owned flats at about 5.15pm yesterday.

Crews were initially alerted by a fire alarm.

However they also received a number of calls from concerned members of the public.

A smoke alarm inside the flat was working and went off, firefighters said.

Dozens of residents, including young children in pyjamas and dressing gowns, were evacuated from the building and waited patiently outside from behind the tape.

However others stayed inside with their doors shut on the advice of firefighters.

A fire and emergency support unit from the Red Cross was also called.

A specialist equipment unit with an aerial ladder platform was used to help fire crews tackle the blaze from the outside.

However the majority of the firefighters called out were inside the building where they broke down the door of the flat to get in.

Crews quickly managed to contain the blaze to the flat and put the fire out.

Sadly the elderly resident, who had last night not been named, died.

He was home alone at the time and no-one else was hurt, firefighters said.

Speaking at the scene last night, Steve Foye, group manager for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: ‘We were called out at 5.15pm to Nickleby House.

‘Initially the fire alarm activated.

‘We very quickly received further calls from members of the public. Crews were at the scene very quickly. They were able to identify very quickly the floor involved and make an early commitment to that floor.

‘We also had an aerial ladder platform on the outside.

‘Most of our firefighting was done on the inside of the building.

‘One person who was involved in the fire has passed away.

‘Some people left the building prior to our arrival.

‘We asked other residents to remain in their flats, which is in line with what we normally do.

‘The crews were up there very quickly.’

The area surrounding the high-rise flats was cordoned off with blue and white police tape and three police cars blocked nearby Wingfield Street in Buckland during rush hour as emergency services worked.

Residents were allowed back into their flats at about 6.45pm yesterday.

Police and fire investigators were last night working to establish the cause of the blaze at the flat.

Scenes of crime officers were also called to the scene.

An officer from Hampshire Constabulary was due to stand guard outside the flat through the night.

Mr Foye added: ‘The flat is being investigated by scenes of crime officers and a fire investigation team to establish the cause.

‘They were able to contain the fire to the flat by forcing the door.

‘The crews did a very good job of getting into the building and tackling the fire. Unfortunately they couldn’t help the gentleman in there.’

‘The firefighters kicked the door to the flat open and I saw black smoke come out.’

DOZENS of residents gathered outside the 17-storey block of flats as the blaze took hold.

Adults and children who live at Nickleby House in All Saints Road, Buckland, Portsmouth, looked on in shock as dozens of firefighters fought the blaze in a flat on the ninth floor yesterday.

Others who had not been evacuated stayed in their flats with the doors shut on the advice of fire crews who quickly contained the blaze.

But many could be seen looking out of their windows or from balconies as the drama unfolded from about 5.15pm.

Brenda Askew lives on the ninth floor of the block.

The 62-year-old said: ‘I was just cooking my dinner.

‘I heard the neighbours, they were trying to push the door of one of the flats open.

‘Then firemen came up and they told us to get inside and shut the door.

‘They kicked the door to the flat open and I saw black smoke come out.

‘I was coughing. They knocked my door and asked if I was alright.

‘They told me to go outside.

‘There was a lot of smoke in the corridor, it was scary.

I feel quite choked. I’m quite upset about it all. I don’t see how he could have survived.’

David Boyce, 64, has lived in a flat at Nickleby House for about three-and-a-half years. He said: ‘I was out dropping a friend off. When I got back I couldn’t get round because of the fire engines - there was thick, black smoke coming out of the flat.’

Lucia Zumrikova, 26, lives on the seventh floor. She said: ‘I was in the living room and I saw from the window smoke coming out.

‘At first I didn’t think it was a fire.

‘Then I opened the window and everything stank of smoke so I knew something was wrong.

‘I called 999. I came down the stairs with my daughter Tanja.

’I was worried about what was happening – you never know what can happen with a fire and how quickly it can go to other flats.’

One woman, who lives on the 12th floor of the 17-storey building with her eight-year-old son, but did not want to be named, said: ‘We went out to the chip shop.

‘We had only been gone about 20 minutes. We came back and there was smoke billowing through the back door.

‘The fire officer said we couldn’t go back into the building.’