A HEROIC teacher smashed his way into a burning flat to save the life of a man trapped inside.
Rob Freedman put his own life at risk by rushing into Gordon Grieve’s burning home, in Fowler Height Close, Blackburn, after the 63-year-old fell asleep in bed while smoking.
The 38-year-old, who lives nearby in Leyburn Road and teaches at Belmont School in Rawtenstall, said Mr Grieve’s ground floor flat was engulfed with flames, but he ran inside and dragged him to safety regardless.
He said: “I could hear him screaming for help. The back gate was locked so I shoulder charged the front door. It hurt my arm and I couldn’t get in.”
Mr Freedman, who also coaches mixed martial arts team Blackburn Predators, was alerted to the blaze by his son Corey, 14.
He was helped over a back fence by fellow resident Andy Newsome before breaking his way in through the back door.
The married dad-of-four said: “The whole front room was on fire, and the back room was filled with thick, black smoke. I couldn’t see anything, but I could hear him. He can’t have been more than 10 feet away.
“I put him over my shoulder, but he started hitting me in his confusion so I dragged him out instead.
“I knew I could rescue him if I could do it in one breath. If he had lived upstairs, then I don’t know what would have happened.
“He wouldn’t have survived. By the time the fire engine turned up, it would have been too late.
“Andy really showed some guts too.”
Mr Newsome, 36, was at the back of his Parsons Way home with his dogs Milly and Tess when he saw a ‘plume of thick, dark, black smoke rising into the air’.
He said: “I thought a vehicle was on fire so I went out. I went to the front of the house and realised it was a property on fire. There was smoke pouring out the front, and there was smoke and flames coming out the back.
“Rob and I could hear somebody shouting so I helped him over the fence and climbed over. Rob went in and, between us, we dragged the man to the furthest point away in the yard while the gate was opened.
“I was there within a minute of seeing the smoke and the fire was raging.
“I was surprised how strong the fire was, it makes you think.”
Mr Grieve’s son, also called Gordon, raced to the scene after being alerted to the fire by a neighbour.
He said his dad had developed learning difficulties after having a brain tumour removed some years ago, which could have caused him to panic during his dramatic rescue.
The Green Lane resident said: “I’m very grateful somebody was there to help my dad. I can’t thank Mr Freedman enough for what he has done.
“Our hero kicked the door down and got him out. My dad looks all right. He has some scratch marks from where he struggled and a bit of smoke inhalation, so he was taken to hospital for some checks and some oxygen.
“He said he was inside, and had taken some diabetes medicine which made him fall asleep, but he had been smoking so it looks like it was a cigarette that caused the fire.
“The next thing he knew, the place was on fire and Mr Freedman had come and lifted him and put him over his shoulder.”
Several calls were made to the fire service within minutes of the blaze breaking out, at around 8.55pm on Thursday evening, and a reserve crews from Blackburn attended because the call came during the firefighters’ strike.
The road was cordoned off to road traffic while police, ambulance and fire rescue vehicles littered the quiet estate.
Onlookers dressed in pyjamas looked on as firefighters worked to make the building safe as the sun went down.
The flat suffered severe damage, while the flat directly above suffered smoke damage, a spokesman at the scene said.
Lancashire Fire Service spokesman John Taylor praised Mr Freedman and Mr Newsome’s bravery.
Mr Taylor said: “Although we would not recommend people dash into houses on fire, it would be very churlish to be critical in a situation like this, where somebody has pulled it off with magnificent effect.
“The man could have died if not for that intervention, so it was an astonishing act. It’s amazing that somebody would respond in that way.
“The chap had gone to bed early at around 8.30pm. He had been smoking and had not extinguished his cigarette, and his bedding set alight.”
Mr Taylor said the fire crews were on the scene within six minutes of receiving the first call, which was ‘within the required standard’.