PANIC-STRICKEN residents including a mum and her 15-month old twins managed to escape out of a downstairs window after the front door of a block of flats caught fire.
Residents in the flats in Lancaster Court, Hartlepool, desperately made their way to the downstairs flat and clambered out of one of the windows after the blaze took hold of the door – which is the only access in and out of the building.
The fire had started in a storage area for bins which is just yards away from the entrance to the building and quickly spread to the front door.
Fortunately Peter Allen, 26, whose girlfriend Natasha Rumble lives in the bottom floor flat with their young twins, smelled smoke and raised the alarm just after 11pm on Thursday.
Residents in the upstairs flat dashed down the stairs before the blaze spread and they managed to get out before firefighters arrived at the scene.
Natasha, 25, who is unemployed and a mum of Lillie Mae Allen and Leo Allen, said: “We’re just lucky we realised before the fire spread, I don’t even want to think about what might have happened.
“Our flat is right next to the front door.
“There was no way we could get out of the door so I grabbed the kids and we screamed at everyone upstairs to get out.”
Unemployed Darren Aird, 27, and Samantha Coulson, 24, live in the top floor flat and told of their panic when they looked out of the window to see the blaze at the front door of the building.
Samantha said: “At first I thought we were going to have to jump from our windows.”
Darren added: “Luckily, we could get down the stairs and managed to get in Natasha’s flat and out of the window.”
Another resident who lives in a flat in the building also managed to get to the downstairs flat and climbed out of the window.
The flats are owned by Four Housing and the residents say they hope the fire is a “wake up call” and another fire exit is installed in the building in case of an emergency like this one.
Fire chiefs praised Peter for raising the alarm when he caught a glimpse of the fire.
Andy Robinson, watch manager at Stranton Station, said: “He did a good job of raising the alarm and getting everyone out.”
All of the bins in the storage area were destroyed and the stairway area was smoke damaged.
A Cleveland Police spokeswoman said: “We got a call at 11.10pm after one of our on-duty officers came across the bins on fire near the communal entrance to the building and we called the fire brigade.
“Our PCSOs are going be out offering assistance to residents.
“We are waiting on the fire brigade to let us know whether there has been an offence. It is up to the fire brigade arson team to confirm.”
David Brown, head of asset at Four Housing, said: “The safety of our residents is paramount, which is why we have ensured that the properties at Lancaster Court meet fire safety regulations.
“We have looked into this incident and a replacement door has been ordered. Efforts are being made to contact all the occupants to answer any questions they may have.”