Neighbours evacuated homes in fear Southsea flat fire could spread
FIRE ripped through a building as a man suffered burns to his hands after falling asleep smoking in bed.
The 58-year-old man, who was also suffered smoke inhalation, escaped by climbing out of the window.
Fire crews were called to the ground-floor flat fire in Outram Road, Southsea, at 10.42pm on Saturday, January 4.
They tackled the blaze until 1.30am on Sunday. Investigators said the fire was caused by the use of ‘smoking materials’ in bed with the man having fallen asleep.
Shocked neighbours rushed outside as smoke billowed into the night sky. Scorched brick can be seen at the rear of the property.
Chris Gilseman, 82, who lives opposite the flat, said: ‘We were just about to go to bed when I heard what sounded like a truck going past.
‘After hearing another heavy vehicle I looked outside to see six fire engines and firefighters entering the building across the road through the back of the house.
‘It was a bit of a shock and I came out to see smoke billowing from the flats and there was strong smell in the air.’
Neighbour Heather Richardson, 71, added: ‘My whole flat lit up with blue lights. I initially thought it might be an ambulance as someone had taken ill. I could hear the sirens and when I came outside there was strong smell of burning.’
Two people managed to escape from an upstairs flat unharmed. Fire crews turned off gas and electricity supplies to the building over fears the blaze could spread.
A next-door-neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: ‘I went outside as even though we have a semi-detached house I was concerned the fire could spread.
‘I initially said to my family that we may have to pack our bags and get out. It was very worrying at the time but fortunately the fire service appeared to have everything under control.’
Fire crews have said the incident is a stark warning of the dangers of smoking in bed.
A Southsea firefighter who attended the incident said: ‘This is a reminder that people should not smoke in bed and should certainly make sure any cigarettes are out.
‘If people are going to smoke then they should always try to do so outside of their properties.’
Five fire appliances, an aerial ladder platform and a command unit vehicle were deployed to the incident with two high pressure jets and two hose reels used to extinguish the blaze.