A sharp-eyed bus driver saved a man from his burning flat after spotting smoke billowing from the window.
Daire Fox (44) and colleague Josie Kee were collecting people to take to a day centre in Coleraine when he noticed an upstairs fire in Hillcrest Avenue, in The Heights estate in the town yesterday morning.
“At first I thought it was steam from a tumble-dryer and I asked Josie ‘is that steam or smoke?’” Daire said.
“We stopped the bus and as we approached the flat we saw thick, black smoke coming out.
“Then we saw a hand clutching for the handle of the window and a man appeared yelling ‘I’m going to burn in hell!’”
The quick-thinking pair called 999 and then hammered on neighbours’ doors to find a ladder to help the man escape. “We propped the ladder against the window,” Daire said.
“He came halfway down and then said he wanted to go back to get his trainers. We told him he couldn’t go back.
“At this stage the window started to blow out with the heat, and the fascia boards started to melt.
“The fire took hold very quickly but by this time we could hear the sound of fire brigades and the police.”
The pair, who are employed by the Northern Health & Social Care Trust, also assisted two women in the downstairs flat which was damaged by the fire.
A spokeswoman for the Fire and Rescue Service said three fire appliances attended the scene which was “well alight upon arrival”.
“There was one male out of the flat before the crews arrived.
“The fire was accidental,” she said.
Daire said once the emergency services took control, he and Josie completed their bus run.
“We had two or three people still to collect for the day centre,” Daire said.
“One of them thought we weren’t coming this morning so we had some explaining to do.”