VIDEO: Woman's horror at arson attack which trapped six in top-floor flat in Sheffield
A terrified woman has spoken of her horror after an arson attack trapped her and five others in a top-floor flat in Sheffield.
One person leapt to safety from the third-storey apartment on Longley Hall Road, in Longley, and another escaped via a ladder propped against the wall as thick smoke filled the stairwell.
A trio of sooty rings on the landing mark the spot where firebugs are believed to have placed toilet rolls doused in flammable liquid on Tuesday evening, causing the blaze.
Eveline Ward was hosting a dinner party for four guests in her flat when she heard her downstairs neighbour Darren Machen banging on her door. As she opened it, a wall of smoke followed him in.
"I was petrified. I don't know why or how someone could do this. I can't live in that flat any more, and I just hope nobody else has to endure what we went through," said the 44-year-old, who has severe breathing problems.
"I was totally oblivious until I heard Darren banging on the door, shouting 'fire'. There was no smell and no smoke, but when we let him in this plume of smoke came pouring through. I dread to think what would have happened had he not alerted us.
"The fire service told us not to go down the stairs as it wasn't safe, but one of my guests jumped out of the window and another climbed down a ladder which someone had propped against the wall after hearing her screams."
The fire broke out at around 6.55pm, and Ms Ward and the others were trapped inside for some 45 minutes before being led to safety after firefighters had extinguished the flames. No one was injured.
Police believe the fire was started deliberately and have urged people to get in touch with any information which could help trace the culprits.
Ms Ward believes she was personally targeted, due to where the fire was started, but cannot understand why anyone would want to harm her. She says there has never been any trouble at the block before.
Mr Machen, a 29-year-old warehouse assistant who lives on the block's second storey, said: "I'm really shaken up. I smelt the smoke and thought I'd left my cooker on at first.
"When I opened my door there was smoke everywhere. I couldn't see more than two feet in front of me and had to feel my way up the stairs using the banister. I inhaled a lot of smoke but the paramedics checked me over and said I was OK.
"I feel scared living here and I'm just glad my four-month-old daughter wasn't here at the time."
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, quoting the incident number 869 of November 7.