A night visit to pick up an Easter egg could have saved lives as fire raged at a home in Preston in a suspected arson attack.
The blaze in Avenham Road led to a gas leak, further endangering the lives of residents who had to be evacuated.
Darren Crowd who lives a few doors down from where the fire took place had been on his way to buy a chocolate creme egg on Wednesday at around 2am when he saw the flames.
The 28-year-old immediately dashed back to his house to alert his girlfriend Charley Adams.
The pair then called the fire brigade and raced round neighbours’ homes banging on doors, alerting them to the fire which had climbed as tall as the roof of the ground floor flat.
Charley, 35, said: “Darren had gone out to get an Easter egg. There was rubbish outside the flat and someone had set fire to it.
“The flames were really high so we banged on everyone’s doors to get them out and rang 999.
“It was crazy, you don’t have time to think.
“The fire engine people said if we hadn’t spotted it when we did the houses were all minutes away from going up in flames.
“The people down the end of the fire all got evacuated and were outside until about 5.30am.
“We spent the night getting blankets for people because they were cold.”
Darren said: “Thank God for an Easter egg. If it weren’t for me they would all have been dead.”
A spokesman at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service told the Post that if Darren hadn’t raised the alarm the flames could have spread to the joining houses in the road.
According to firefighters the occupant was home at the time of the fire but managed to escape injured.
The fire, which spread quickly, caused extensive damage to the door, hallway, lounge and a bedroom of the flat.
It also led to a number of other properties being evacuated in the middle of the night after the fire caused a significant gas leak.
Two fire engines from Preston attended the blaze with firefighters wearing breathe masks entering the smoke-filled property.
A fire brigade spokesman said: “If there had been a delay in the fire service attending because the resident hadn’t reported the fire then the fire could have developed further.
“Crews used one hose reel and a ventilation unit to extinguish the fire.
“A small number of neighbouring properties were also evacuated during the incident. The cause of the fire is suspicious and an investigation is under way.”
Another resident of Avenham Road, who did not want to be named, said: “We got woken up at around 2.30am.
“Everyone was in shock. There were bangs and the wood was cracking. We were panicking trying to make sure that everyone was OK.
“It was only thanks to a passerby who was going to pick up a creme egg otherwise no one would have knocked.”
Another resident of Avenham Road said: “I got woken up by a passerby. I looked outside and there was a big fire.
“There was also a gas leak so people had to be evacuated.
“I didn’t get back in the house until the early hours of the morning, it was daylight. My roof was about to go so I was lucky a passerby saw it and woke me up.
“It shows you how easy it is to sleep through. I didn’t realise.
“We were really lucky. It was scary.”