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'Heroic!': Bin man praised after rescuing two people and dog from fierce Tipton blaze

A bin man who scaled a wall to save two people and a dog from a "severe" fire at a Tipton home has been hailed a hero.

Smoke could be seen billowing from the property. Picture: West Midlands Fire Service

Serco employee Steve Whitehouse was on his trade waste round with driver Kevin Marriott on Tuesday morning when they spotted the blaze at a maisonette on Ridgeway Road.

Within seconds the 49-year-old got out of the bin lorry, leapt over a fence and climbed a wall to reach the first-floor balcony of the property, which he did so three times to rescue a man, a woman and a dog from the flames.

Steve - or Winnie as he is known by his colleagues - lives in Yew Tree, West Bromwich, with his partner and daughter.

He said: "I saw a young woman screaming from the balcony and all I could think was that I needed to get to her as quickly as possible.

Pictures inside the home show the devastation caused by the fire. Picture: West Midlands Fire Service

"The smoke was getting thicker. I called to anyone else who might be inside and could hear a young man shouting in distress for his dog.

"I managed to bundle up the dog in a blanket, jumped back down to the ground, and got the owner to throw the dog to me. I then went back up to help him."

After three successful rescues, Steve began banging on the doors of neighbours to alert them of the danger.

Meanwhile, bin lorry driver Kevin tended to those who had already been evacuated from their homes for safety.

After recovering over a coffee, the pair later continued with their waste collection round.

Pictures show damage to the outside of the property as a result of the fire. Picture: West Midlands Fire Service

Steve, who has worked as a refuse operative in Sandwell since 2007, added: "I wanted to be sure that all our customers got their collections.

"But that’s just me – it will probably sink in later today what actually happened."

Fire crew arrived at the scene just after 8am, where they tended to the smoke and flames which could be seen billowing from the property.

Four fire engines crewed by a total of 19 firefighters responded, from Tipton, Dudley, Bilston and Wednesbury fire stations, with the first arriving within four minutes of being mobilised.

Tipton Watch Commander Chris Green, the incident commander, said: “It was clear as we approached that this was a severe fire. I have no doubt that, without Steve’s incredible bravery, the outcome could have been very different.

“I have no idea how he managed to do what he did. It was heroic. The fire and smoke were coming out of the property’s rear door like a blow torch.

“One rescue would have been remarkable. To save the lives of two people and a dog is staggering. We will be putting him forward for official recognition.”

West Midlands Fire Service said the blaze is believed to have started when an e-bike battery exploded while on charge at the bottom of the stairs, cutting off the occupants’ escape route.

Councillor Danny Millard, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for environment and highways, added: “I would like to thank Steve and Kevin for their quick-thinking actions and for the way they supported residents and the fire service.

“Our bin crews already do an important job for Sandwell residents, and I praise Steve, Kevin and the rest of their crew’s efforts to continue with the day job and complete the collection round following this incident.”

A man in his 20s was given first aid by fire crew at the scene before being taken to hospital after suffering from the effects of smoke.

A woman, also in her 20s, was checked over at the scene by paramedics whilst the dog was given oxygen therapy by firefighters.

The fire is said to have affected the entire property and "destroyed" its contents. It was confirmed to be out by 9am.