Heroic window cleaner stops Islington blaze before firefighters arrive

A brave window cleaner put out a flat fire before firefighters arrived because he feared children were trapped inside.

Nicky Rifat has been praised after he ran into the first-floor flat in Lofting Road, Islington and used wet towels to beat out the flames before emergency services reached the scene.

He said: “I walked round the corner and saw one of my neighbours crying hysterically. I just ran upstairs into the flat without thinking, because I was just worried there were kids in there.”

He found the flat empty, but fearing the blaze might spread and despite the thick smoke, he leapt into action.

He said: “The fire was in the kitchen. I was just hitting the flames with a wet towel, but the smoke was so bad I couldn’t breathe and I had to run out.

“I put my top over my face, found another towel, went back in and managed to put out the fire.”

The blaze took hold at about 11.15pm last Wednesday and Mr Rafat was treated for smoke inhalation by ambulance paramedics.

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His friend James Osborne, who contacted the Gazette, said: “He didn’t know if there were any kids in there so he just ran in there, and I just thought it was such a brave thing to do.”

Julie Oldfield, 43, who lives below the first-floor flat, said: “Nicky deserves a medal, he was absolutely brilliant.

“He was worried about the fire spreading and by the time the fire brigade came he’d already put it out.”

Mr Rifat added: “I’ve never done anything like that in my life. Afterwards, my girlfriend wasn’t very pleased that I took such a risk and she keeps telling me off.”

Jemal D’Jemal, 50, of no fixed address, appeared at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on Friday charged with arson, criminal damage, possessing a blade in a public place and threats to kill.