Rochester Flat Fire

Thirteen people have been rescued by firefighters after a fire broke out at their block of flats in Rochester late last night.

Nine of them were helped to safety by crews wearing breathing apparatus, the rest were helped out of windows at the four storey building.

All of those rescued were treated for the effects of breathing in smoke, and one man suffered minor injuries to his face.

The fire is believed to have started in a stairwell, just after midnight. It took more than 30 firefighters three hours to bring it put out.

The building off Gravel Walk has been left badly damaged by fire and smoke, and all residents are being rehoused by the local authority until the building is made safe. 

The Red Cross are on scene offering support to the victims and emergency services.

Watch Manager Pete Harris, incident commander, said: "The crews were superb, everyone played their part, especially the first three pumps on scene, who got stuck in and allowed us to effect early rescues.

"The situation was unfortunately complicated by residents opening their doors and letting smoke from the fire in the stairwell in to their flats. The best thing to do if your escape route is not clear, is to stay put and call for help.

Police are treating it as suspicious and have started an investigation into the cause.

Two people have been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life.

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