Worthing fire traps seven

Firecrews rescued a baby and six adults trapped by a fire at their flats in Crescent Road early this morning.

The fire above the West End hairdressers shop stared just before 4am.

A smoke alarm had alerted the occupants of a third floor flat, but they were unable to get out because of the smoke and heat in the communal hallway.

When they dailled 999 the operator advised them to close doors, put towels or bedding around the door to stop smoke coming in, and get to an open window at the front of the flat where they could be seen by firefighters.

Crews from Worthing Fire Station arrived within six minutes, and could see the trapped man and woman at the window.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus broke into the ground floor to tackle the fire, with the whole of the hallway heavily smoke-logged. The fire had started in a cupboard containing the electricity meter.

People living in flats on the first and second floor were woken by the noise to find themselves trapped by the heat and smoke in the hallway and stairs.

The fire was put out and the smoke was cleared using a pressurised ventilation fan.

Another person was found in a ground floor flat still asleep, totally unaware of the drama.

Firefighters then led all the residents to safety. One man and a woman, both in their 20s, were taken to hospital suffering from the effects of breathing in smoke.

The main electrical supply to the building had to be isolated by EDF, and Worthing Borough Council put some residents up in temporary accommodation, with others going to family or friends.

Crew Commander Adie Carter from Worthing Fire Station, who was in charge of the first crews to arrive, said it was fortunate the smoke alarm woke the occupants of the top flat.

"If fire starts and goes undetected, smoke builds up and you are in danger of being overcome as you sleep.  You may wake up in a smoke filled room coughing and unable to breathe, and then find yourself unable to escape because your escape route - normally your stairs or hallway - is blocked or impassable because of the fire and smoke.

"The advice is simple. Give yourself a chance.  Make sure you have smoke alarms fitted.  They cost as little as £5 and could one day save your life."