An off-duty London Fire Brigade officer rescued five people from a first floor flat above a shop following a fire on High Road in Chadwell Heath on Thursday night.
Station Manager Paul McClenaghan was visiting his mother nearby when he saw smoke in the distance and decided to investigate. On arrival at the scene Paul saw a woman at the window screaming for help.
Paul said: “I could see a woman screaming from a window as her escape route was blocked. A fire had developed on the outside of the building but thick smoke was already billowing across an external staircase, preventing her from making a quick exit.
“I flagged down a builder’s van and told them to call the Brigade as I knew the fire needed tackling urgently. I also borrowed their ladder and went up to rescue the lady. Once I got her out safely, I then went back to help another four people to leave the building, as smoke was already starting to enter the flat.
“I didn’t think about it, my firefighter training kicked in and I knew I had to get in there and get the people out. It was instinctive.
“I was Station Manager at Dagenham fire station for six and a half years and I’m currently based at Lambeth fire station. I’m usually the one in charge of an incident so it’s been a while since I’ve gone into a property to do a rescue of this nature. For firefighters, helping people is what we do, I know it sounds cheesy, but we’re never off-duty.”
All five people and Paul were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation by London Ambulance Service.
On arrival, local crews were able to quickly extinguish the fire so only a small part of the ground and first floor of the property was damaged.
London Fire Brigade’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner for North East London, Al Perez said: “I want to congratulate Paul for his swift action in helping these people in distress. Paul is an experienced firefighter and so I would remind the public that in the event of witnessing a fire, call 999 first so we can get there as soon as possible. Never attempt to rescue someone yourself.”
The Brigade was called at 7.15pm and the fire was under control by 8.45pm. Fire crews from Ilford, Romford and Hainault fire stations were at the scene.
The cause of the fire is believed to have been the unsafe disposal of smoking materials such as cigarettes or matches.