Quick-thinking Penrith workers have been praised by Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service after their heroic actions helped save a man who was on fire.
After a blaze broke out in a town flat early on Monday morning, its occupant walked into the nearby Cranstons store in King Street with his leg and arm on fire.
Robert Henderson, Cranstons King Street manager, said he had just opened up and was putting the counter lights on when he sensed somebody come into the shop.
“I turned around and saw a gentleman — who I recognised straight away from being across at the flats — with flames coming up his right leg.
“That was a bit of a shock,” said Mr Henderson.
He quickly grabbed a tin foil blanket, which is used to cover the meat counter, and used it to smother the flames which, he said, were “eating into his tracksuit”.
Then, with the help of Matthew Thompson, who had just been arriving to work across the road at Murtas Barbers, put him on to the floor.
Pauline Ruddick, who works in the King Street shop as a sales assistant, then helped fill bucket after bucket of cold water which was slowly poured over the man’s burns until the emergency services arrived.
He was taken to the Cumberland Infirmary, Carlisle, with injuries not believed to be life threatening, before being transferred to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle for treatment to burns on his leg.
Matthew said he saw the man stagger out of the alleyway and walk into the butchers’ shop with his “leg and arm on fire”.
“I ran across the road to him, and I could hear Robert inside shouting. We got round to him and bundled him to the ground to put him out.
“It was just one of those scary things that you don’t expect to see in your lifetime,” said Matthew.
The man was said to have been in terrible shock and was unable to speak.
“He’s been lucky really that anybody was about. Cranstons had only just opened,” said Matthew.
Philip Askins, who was also on his way to work at Murtas Barbers at 7am, was walking down the alleyway towards the flat at the back of Cranstons when he heard a commotion.
“I could hear rustling and thought ‘is that smoke’? I got a bit closer and thought that is not smoke from a boiler.
“That’s big black smoke. So I thought I would go a bit closer, then he must have opened the door, and it just went whoosh,” said Philip, who called the fire brigade.
Firefighters from Penrith, Lazonby and Shap were called to the flat blaze, which was described as being “fully developed” on their arrival.
Cumbria fire and rescue station manager Stuart Hook said they evacuated the surrounding properties and monitored the adjoining apartments to ensure the fire had not spread.
“Unfortunately the flat did not have a working smoke alarm which would have prevented the severe burns the resident received escaping a developed fire,” said Mr Hook.
He praised and thanked the staff from Cranstons and Murtas barbers for their actions.
He said the quick-thinking to use tin foil to extinguish the flames and then cooling the burns until the paramedics arrived “without doubt made a significant difference to the health of the casualty, if not saved his life”.
Mr Hook added that because the fire had made such an impact on the surrounding area, firefighters from Penrith spent the afternoon talking to residents and local businesses in the vicinity offering safety advice.
“Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service offers a free safe and well visit to everyone, which is a friendly, informal chat with a local fire officer in your home, to make sure you have the right information and support in place to keep you safe at home.
“The visit typically lasts for 20 minutes and will also include fire safety advice and guidance on fitting and checking your smoke alarms,” said Mr Hook.