A family with a five-year-old child were forced to flee a fire which police believe may have been started deliberately as they slept.
A woman has been arrested after the blaze in Troutpool Close, Hartlepool, yesterday.
The three were awoken at around 3am by the smell of burning, and although all escaped, a 32-year-old man had to be taken to the University Hospital of North Tees with breathing difficulties before later being discharged.
A 39-year-old woman from the Hartlepool area was arrested and questioned on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life.
Local residents say the family have only recently moved into the property and have three dogs and four cats.
After the family escaped the blaze, the man returned to save the pets.
I’ve never been so close to a fire like that, so it was frighteningJulie Gainford, next door neighbour
A relative who did not wish to be named said: “They have only lived here for six weeks, so this is a frightening incident to have happened.
“There is damage all through the house, and the walls are black upstairs.
“It was a terrible fire, and the smoke got everywhere.
“The man went back inside to save the family pets, and had to be taken to hospital. He’s a very selfless man.”
Julie Gainford, 48, who lives next door to the affected property with son Andrew, 23, was left shaken by the incident.
She said: “I had not long since got to sleep when I heard a knocking on the door, and I thought it was kids messing about at first.
“I looked out of the bedroom window and saw someone running from the property with a blanket on them, and realised they had been in a fire. It was very scary.
“I got my son out of the house, just in case our house went up as well.
“I’ve never been so close to a fire like that, so it was frightening.
“The main thing is that everyone managed to get out of the property and no one was seriously hurt.”
Police are now appealing for information.
Any witnesses or anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Paul Husband on the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or www.crimestoppers-uk.org.