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Heroic neighbour saved pensioner from Holloway blaze

PUBLISHED: 07:43 17 March 2011 | UPDATED: 10:54 17 March 2011

Heroic John Walsh

Heroic John Walsh

Archant

AN 83-year-old man living in sheltered accommodation was rescued from a flat blaze by his heroic next-door neighbour before firefighters could get there.

The burnt out flat

Ken Thomas was hauled out of his burning second-floor flat in Brightwell Court, Mackenzie Road, Holloway, and carried away from danger by quick-thinking neighbour John Walsh at around 6.30pm on Saturday.

Mr Thomas, who walks with a cane and rides a mobility scooter, had breathed in lots of smoke but survived thanks to the heroic intervention of Mr Walsh, 63, who found him struggling to open the front door.

Around 30 other residents were evacuated before fire crews reached the scene.

Mr Walsh, 63, said: “I poked my head out and saw him trying to open the door. I got the door open and all the smoke came out.

Brightwell Court

“When I saw the smoke I just panicked and grabbed hold of him. I got him out and got him downstairs. I have always been told to stay in my flat if there’s a fire, but it’s lucky I poked my head out of my door. If I had not done so and had not seen him fumbling with the door. I don’t know what would have happened. He was collapsing.”

Mr Thomas was rescued before fire crews got to the four-storey block, which is a supported housing scheme for older people.

He was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and taken by ambulance to the Whittington Hospital, in Magdala Avenue, Archway, where he was reecoving and in a stable condition this week. His flat was devastated by the fire, but it did not spread.

Four engines and about 20 firefighters tackled the blaze, blocking off Mackenzie Road, while the residents waited in the street. They were called just after 6.30pm and had the fire under control an hour later.

Edward Faunch, 76, who lives in the flat above Mr Thomas, said: “I looked out of the window. Underneath me I could see the smoke billowing out. Most people walked outside and were quite calm – but nobody realised how serious it was.”

The blaze is thought to have been started by a cigarette, although the cause is still under investigation. It is not being treated as suspicious by police.

Mr Thomas, who is visited by carers twice a day, was known to smoke in his room, even though it is against the block’s rules.

Lara Esho, the scheme manager, said: “My tenants look after each other. Mr Walsh risked his life for Mr Thomas. Anything could have happened to both of them.

“He’s done a very good job by pulling him out, but he took a big risk. If anything serious happened we might have lost two people.”

She said the tenants had been given a talk on fire safety only last week, and added: “Mr Thomas smokes. He’s vulnerable and he likes smoking. We have warned him on many occasions not to smoke in the flat.”


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