Four police officers have been hailed as heroes after they saved the lives of residents in a burning block of flats.
The three-storey block in central Preston was gutted by the fire which broke out in the early hours of yesterday.
The quartet of hero officers, who were first on the scene, broke down the door and battled through the smoke to evacuate people.
The officers “selflessly” entered the smoke-logged flats in Aughton Walk, off Lancaster Road, at around 3.30am and roused residents who were still asleep.
Today Chief Inspector Mike Adamson (pictured) praised the actions of those police officers, who he said, “undoubtedly saved the lives” of the people they evacuated.
He said: “They acted very selflessly and put themselves in a lot of danger.
“A woman escaped through the window of her first floor flat as the stairwell was blocked with thick black smoke. She flagged down a passing patrol who then went to the flat where the fire started. They tried to break in but were beaten back by flames, smoke and heat.
“Thankfully, they managed to get to the surrounding properties and helped evacuate the residents.
“They undoubtedly saved those people’s lives. The residents were asleep and this was a very fierce fire – it had broken through the ground floor ceiling and spread to two flats above. If they had not risked their lives and acted so swiftly the outcome could have been a lot worse. I am very proud of these officers.”
They were all taken to hospital suffering with smoke inhalation along with the woman who reported the emergency – the officers have since been released.
Grandmother Kathleen Walker, 69, who lives in the neighbouring block, described how she was woken after her dog Tia sounded the alarm.
She said: “I was fast asleep. The dog started barking and jumped on me and woke me up. I got up to see what was happening and the bathroom of the flat where it started was like an inferno.”
She woke her partner Anthony Peel and grandson Kayden Anderson, seven, and they evacuated the building.
Police say they are treating the cause of the fire as suspicious. A 41-year-old man from Preston has been arrested on suspicion of arson.
Fire crews say the fire was serious and well developed when they arrived at the scene, but thankfully residents had all been evacuated.
Watch Manager David Shaw said: “When we arrived we were met by a serious and well developed fire, which had spread to two flats above the property.
“Thankfully nobody was in the flats when we arrived, however, a lady who lived above the flat had to self rescue from a window of the flat.
“In total 12 people were evacuated from the flats by the police, all of them were adults.”