A young Doncaster man was hailed a hero last night for battling through toxic smoke to rouse his neighbours after a late- night arson attack at a block of flats.
Wayne Stead, aged 28, needed medical attention after he inhaled smoke during the drama which could have led to the block in Dunscroft blowing up because of leaking gas.
An old sofa awaiting disposal was pushed up against a door and set alight late on Saturday night and flames quickly set fire to a door and started to melt an adjacent gas mains pipe.
Wayne, who was visiting his disabled father, Bob, who lives in the same block on Durham Road, was the first to realise something was wrong.
He said: “I could hear a crackling noise outside the door and then I could see the flames. I went running up the stairs and started banging on doors to tell people to get out.
“Then I started throwing buckets of water on the sofa and it was nearly out by the time the fire brigade arrived. “The heat melted the gas pipe but by the time the gas started coming out there weren’t any flames.
“I could see it was a danger to everybody. I’m all right now but I had to go into the back of the ambulance.”
Neighbour Sharon O’Brien and her partner, Alan Williams, were in their nightclothes just going to bed when they heard urgent knocking on their first-storey door.
She said: “As soon as we opened the door the smoke billowed in and we started choking.
“It was just like a fog so we phoned 999. Then Wayne shouted that the gas pipe could blow up so we got out in our dressing gowns.
“Afterwards I gave Wayne a kiss on the cheek because I’m sure he saved our lives. We could have been fast asleep if he hadn’t raised the alarm. He’s a real hero.”
A door next to the sofa was badly damaged and two of the flats were still without gas yesterday afternoon.
Fire and police investigators say the sofa was definitely set on fire.
Witnesses, or anyone with information, is asked to call South Yorkshire Police on 101 quoting incident number 1425 of July 5, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 anonymously.