A fire engine became a makeshift ambulance for the second time in five days after paramedics failed to answer a 999 call to a blaze in Preston.
A man and a woman had to be taken to hospital in the back of the appliance after a 40-minute wait for medical help which never arrived.
The incident happened in Ravenswood, Ribbleton, just over a mile away from the scene of a road smash in Fulwood last week where a fire crew took a casualty to A&E on a spinal board after waiting 90 minutes for paramedics to attend.
Ambulance chiefs say on both occasions no vehicles were available in the Preston area because they were busy dealing with an unusually high number of “life-threatening” call-outs. And now an investigation has been launched into how a no-show - described as a “rare” event - could happen twice in the same city in less than a week
Mariusz Olejnik, 32, is recovering in the Royal Preston Hospital after being burned trying to put out a fire in the kitchen of his first floor flat in Ravenswood, Ribbleton. Downstairs neighbour Donna Walmsley, also 32, suffered a lacerated foot as the pair tackled the blaze.
“We waited for a bit with Mario in real pain, but then the firemen said they would take us to hospital because there wasn’t an ambulance,” said Donna.
“I’d heard about the crash last week when the injured woman had to be taken in by fire engine. Now it’s happened again. That’s quite bad that. The fire brigade were brilliant. One of them put a plastic bag on Mario’s hand and arm and held it still all the way to hospital.
“We had put a pan on the cooker and then gone downstairs and forgot about it. When we heard the smoke alarm go off we dashed back upstairs and, in panic, Mario tried to put the fire out by throwing some water on it. It just flared up.”
Mariusz’ mother Elzbieta Bujacz added: “He’s had skin grafts on his arm and he’ll be in hospital for at least a week. But for no ambulance to come is awful. Thank heavens for the firemen.”
Five days earlier driver Saira Khalid, 22, of Tennyson Mill Court, Ribbleton was transported to hospital by fire engine after being cut free from the wreckage of her car in Regent Drive, Fulwood.
The North West Ambulance Service said they attempted to reach the casualty but couldn’t because the were dealing with seven life-threatening call-outs on the same evening.
At that time a spokesperson said: “Between 6pm and 9pm we had 19 incidents in Preston alone, seven of which were red calls which are immediately life-threatening. We simply didn’t have any vehicles available. We tried to get to the Regent Drive accident, but the crews kept getting diverted to calls seen as higher priority.”
This week’s fire, which started in a chip pan, was put out quickly by the firefighters. But, despite calling for medics, the crew decided to transport the couple to hospital themselves.
The ambulance spokesperson said: “On this one we had 22 calls around the same time, 10 of them red ones. We are looking into it.”