OAPs trapped as flat torched

Blackstock suspected arson.  The flat on Blackstock Road where arson is suspected .
Blackstock suspected arson. The flat on Blackstock Road where arson is suspected .
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Arsonists slammed for ‘recklessly endangering life’

A PENSIONER says she and her neighbours “could have been killed” after becoming trapped in their block of flats when a ground floor property was set alight, filling the building with smoke as they slept.

Firefighters slammed the arsonists responsible for “reckless endangerment of life” after an old sofa was torched in the living room of a flat whose tenant moved out last week.

Crews who attended the fire believe that, had residents of the other flats not had smoke alarms, they could have been killed - as thick toxic smoke filled the three-storey building and made the communal stairway impassable.

The blaze, in a block of six properties on Gleadless Road, Gleadless Valley, broke out at about 3am on Saturday but the four neighbouring residents were roused by their alarms and dialled 999.

While waiting for the fire brigade, the trapped occupants were forced to go out onto their balconies and verandas for fresh air, as smoke was filling their homes.

Grandmother-of-one Sandra Barker, aged 65, who has lived on the top floor of the block for 15 years, woke to hear the smoke alarm sounding from a neighbouring property.

She said: “There was smoke filling my flat. I got a glass of water and went out onto my veranda - there was nowhere else to go. I knew I had to get out of the way of the smoke. My own alarm was faulty and, had I not heard my neighbour’s go off, I could have been killed - as could others in the block if they hadn’t been woken by the alarms.

“The smoke was thick and I had to spend the day cleaning my flat and washing everything.”

Crew manager Jim Bright, of Central Fire Station, said: “When we arrived, the ground floor flat was well alight.

“People on the upper floors weren’t able to get out because the smoke had made the communal stairway impassable. It was filling the whole block.”

Thousands of pounds has only recently been spent on the fired property by Sheffield Council under the Decent Homes council house modernisation programme.

The fire service confirmed preliminary investigations had found the fire had been started in an old sofa in the living room of the ground floor flat.

Crew manager Bright said: “It looks like it may have been deliberate. If that turns out to be the case, it’s clearly reckless endangerment of the lives of the people living in the properties above, who would have been asleep at the time the fire started.

“They are very lucky they had working smoke alarms. Incidents like this just show the importance of the devices.”