Neighbours’ bid to save man trapped in Kensworth flat blaze

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A man who tried to help his neighbour caught in a house fire has spoken of his shock at his death.

David Tooley raised the alarm and with another neighbour tried to break into the downstairs flat at Ridgeway in Kensworth early on Monday morning, after spotting smoke coming from the flat downstairs.

“I live in the flat above and am an early riser, which helped me see the danger quite quickly,” said Mr Tooley, 49.

“When I opened my curtains sometime after 7.30am, I think, I saw smoke coming out of the vents of his windows. The smoke got thicker and started to blow out of the vents of other closed windows.

“Myself and another neighbour bashed on the windows and door but there was no sign of anyone being in the flat.

“The fire brigade was brilliant; they arrived very quickly, it felt like 15-20 minutes. They knocked down the reinforced door, put the fire out and found the body.

“My thoughts go out to my neighbour and his family; it’s just awful to think of someone dying in those circumstances.

“It all happened so quickly and I am sure the firefighters saved my home and the homes of my neighbours, too, and I am grateful for that,

“Some of us, including me, were given smoke alarms. I had become pretty lackadaisical about them but I won’t be from now on.

“I now know how quickly fires can escalate. You don’t get time to sort things out when the panic sets in, so I would say without hesitation that everyone should get one, fit it and test it.

“I don’t know if having a working fire alarm would have saved my neighbour’s life but they have a secondary purpose of alerting everyone else too, especially in flats.”

Fire crews from Dunstable Community Fire Station and Markyate fought the fire in the flat wearing breathing apparatus to protect themselves from smoke and fumes and using a fire hose and covering jet. The fire was extinguished by 8.45am.

A police spokesman said a man had been declared dead at the scene but they have not yet released his name.

An investigation into the blaze is continuing.