A TERRIFIED pensioner aged 91 was carried from his home by firefighters and neighbouring houses were evacuated after arsonists set fire to a bin and sparked fears of a gas explosion.
Lansford Moxam, of Rampton Road, Sharrow, woke in the early hours to find firemen in his bedroom.
Emergency workers cordoned off his street amid fears of a gas blast, after a wheelie bin was set alight and the flames cracked a gas pipe.
Mr Moxam, a father of eight, who has 22 grandchildren and three great grandchildren, had not been out of his home for two years when he was helped to safety by firefighters before gas engineers arrived to cap off the supply.
A bin outside the former fisherman and steelworker’s home had been set alight deliberately, sending flames shooting towards his property and sending plumes of thick, toxic smoke into homes on the street.
Neighbours extinguished the blaze with buckets and bowls of water while firefighters raced to the scene.
Mr Moxam spent yesterday at his daughter Janet Kelsey’s house in neighbouring South View Crescent, recovering from his ordeal.
Relatives gathered to condemn those responsible for starting the fire.
Janet, aged 45, told The Star: “I was screaming, ‘My dad, my dad’, and there were firefighters and police everywhere. It was terrifying - everyone was getting evacuated because of fears about the leaking gas and my dad was still inside.
“It is unbelievable that somebody would do something like this - start a fire outside homes at a time most people would be in bed. I hope the police catch who did this.”
Her sister Lorraine Moxam, 49, of Firth Park, said: “Fire spreads so quickly and because there was a gas leak nobody knew if there was going to be an explosion.
“My father came out of the house in his vest and socks in the middle of the night, and the family next door, with two young children, had to be evacuated.
“Whoever did this might think it makes them look big and hard and they might be bragging about it, but I hope they see what they have done and how much worse this could have been.
“My father is 91 and vulnerable, and now all the commotion has calmed down and we can think rationally about what happened it’s frightening to think about it.”
David and Emma Jackson, both 34, who were evacuated with their two young daughters, also condemned the arsonist.
David, who helped extinguish the flames, said: We heard a strange noise and when we looked outside we saw the flames.
“There was smoke everywhere too and a really strong smell of gas.
“It is frightening to think whoever did this could have killed us. It might have been a bit of fun at the time, but starting a fire so close to a house put all our lives at risk.”
A fire service spokeswoman said: “Setting fire to a wheelie bin is not a bit of fun. This is extremely serious - if this fire hadn’t been reported to us early, this could have been a very serious incident. Luckily the elderly resident was not hurt.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman added: “Fire is believed to have been started in a wheelie bin outside a property on the street.
“At an adjoining property, there was a ruptured gas pipe and residents in five surrounding properties were evacuated as a safety precaution until the gas supply could be controlled. Police are investigating the fire and treating it as suspicious.”
Anyone with information about the fire at 12.30am yesterday should call South Yorkshire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.