A widower told today how his neighbours alerted him to a blaze which ripped through a garden shed and spread to his house, helping him flee to safety.
Derek Smith, aged 80, was in bed at his Hednesford home when his shed went up in flames and he heard his neighbours shouting to him to leave the house. It was the fourth in a series of arson attacks in the town over two days.
Flames engulfed the shed at the Upper Mount semi-detached where Mr Smith lives alone, before spreading to the house where the fire cracked a window and melted his washing machine.
Around an hour before the fire took place on Sunday night, Mr Smith said he answered the door to a man aged around 18 years old who was asking for a ‘Raymond’. It is not known whether the young man has been linked to the fire by the authorities.
Mr Smith, who has lived at the Upper Mount Street address since 1965, said he had no idea the fire was taking place until his neighbours called him down.
“It was around 11.30pm when I heard the neighbours shouting ‘get out of bed’,” said Mr Smith.
“They came and helped me and the fire brigade and the police were here minutes later.
“I couldn’t smell the smoke at all - and there’s four fire alarms in the house. The first I knew about it was the lady shouting across the road to me.”
Mr Smith’s neighbour, mother-of-two Dawn Gater, aged 49, said: “We ran over to his house and called him down. Seconds after he’d come out we heard a loud ‘pop’ and there was an explosion. Had we left it another five minutes, the fire would have taken hold and he could have died.
“Police think it was deliberate. It’s incredibly frightening.”
Three other suspected arson attacks have taken place in Hednesford in two days, including a fire at the now derelict West Cannock Sports Club in Bradbury Lane on Sunday. Arsonists also set fire to a bench behind a house in Mount Street and bins near homes in Station Road on Saturday.
Staffordshire Police Chief Inspector Carl Ratcliffe said: “Some of the bins and sheds have been in close proximity to houses and could have caused serious damage and endangered people’s lives.”
Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101.