“THEY are both lucky to be alive.”
That’s the message from firefighters after two women were dramatically rescued from the scene of an arson attack in Hampshire yesterday.
One of the women is disabled and had to be carried out by fire crews as thick toxic smoke filled a block of flats on Mansbridge Road, Southampton.
A second woman, who was in the same apartment, was led to safety after fire crews used breathing apparatus and hose reels to dampen the flames.
Both were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.
Last night, scenes of crime experts revealed that the fire was started deliberately in the unoccupied ground floor flat below.
The man in charge of the 12-strong firefighting team, Eastleigh Watch manager Graham Sedge, said the women were lucky to be alive.
Crews from Eastleigh and St Mary’s were only alerted to the blaze after a dog walker spotted smoke and dialled 999 at around 7.50am yesterday.
“It could have been a lot worse,” said watch manager Sedge.
“It was very lucky that it was 8am rather than 2am because the fire may not have been spotted by the dog walker.
I think they are lucky to be alive.
“Our team’s work was very good and they had the fire out very quickly enabling us to search for the two people upstairs.”
Police closed the road at around 8am so emergency services could access the site and only lifted the cordon an hour later.
A further two people were able to make their own way to safety from a different part of the block, which is largely unoccupied.
Many of the flats are boarded up and staff from First Wessex Housing Association were coming and going from the scene throughout yesterday.
No one was available for comment from the organisation.
One young resident from an adjoining block of flats said: “We woke up when we saw the blue flashing lights out of the window. When we looked out we just thought ‘oh my god.’
“We sawa load of smoke but we didn’t think it was that bad though because it was coming from a bottom floor flat and no one lives there. Hopefully the two women are okay.”
A homeowner in neighbouring Arnold Road added: “I got woken up by the sirens and when I looked out the bedroom window I saw a load of smoke pouring out of the window. It’s so lucky that no one was asleep in the flat. They wouldn’t have stood a chance.”
A police spokesman confirmed an arson investigation was under way.
Anyone with information should contact officers on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.