Pregnant woman trapped by arson at flats

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A DAD-of-two fled from his South Yorkshire home fearing for his life after arsonists targeted.

Martin Vernon, aged 49, of Roughwood Way, Kimberworth, Rotherham, woke up in the early hours of yesterday to find the communal hall outside his flat filled with black acrid smoke and the front door burning.

Mr Vernon managed to flee and raise the alarm but his neighbours in the only other occupied flat in the block had to be given fire survival advice by 999 control room staff after they were trapped upstairs because of the noxious smoke.

The pregnant woman and her partner, aged in their 20s, were hanging out of a window when firefighters arrived.

Firefighters led them to safety after ventilating the block and the woman was taken to hospital for a check-up.

Arson has been blamed for the blaze, which was discovered at 2.40am yesterday.

Crews found the bin store outside engulfed in flames by the front door.

Thick plumes of smoke from the plastic bins had poured into the communal entrance hall and stairwell.

Mr Vernon said: “I woke up and could gear a crackling noise and opened the front door to just see thick black acrid smoke.

“I quickly got dressed and managed to get out and dial 999 and at the time I just acted on instinct. Now, looking back, I realise how lucky we all were.

“If this was started deliberately people need to realise how they are putting lives at risk.”

Crew manager Neil Fretwell, of Rotherham fire station, said: “It could have been a much more serious incident if we had not got there as quickly as we did - the smoke had got into the communal areas and the stairs, preventing occupants from one of the flats from getting out.

n Anyone with information about the blaze should call South Yorkshire Police on 101 and quote incident 88 of March 1.