AN off-duty policeman crawled through a smoke-filled house and helped to save his elderly neighbour’s life.

Aaron Wilson, 30, said the smoke and flames were so thick he was repeatedly beaten back after the blaze began in Blackburn Road, Oswaldtwistle.

The alarm was raised by passing refuse collectors, who saw the flames lighting up the pensioner’s window from the road yesterday afternoon.

When PC Wilson saw the council workers trying to alert the occupant, he leapt into action and broke in through the back door.

PC Wilson, who works for Greater Manchester Police’s mounted unit, then crawled the length of the property trying to reach the 93-year-old man.

He said he was forced back several times so he could get gulps of air.

After numerous attempts, he finally reached the door of the living room at the front of the house.

However when he tried to push the door open he discovered his neighbour slumped on the other side blocking entry.

Firefighters said that by pushing the door ajar PC Wilson probably prevented the smoke in the room from completely overwhelming the pensioner, and helped to save his life.

PC Wilson then told six firefighters where to find the man in the house when they arrived moments later.

Wearing breathing apparatus they rescued the pensioner who was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital.

PC Wilson said: “I heard the bin men knocking on his house and when I looked out, I could see the flames in the window.

“I could tell I needed to go in, so I used a brick to break the bottom of the door and crawled through.

“First I checked the bedroom, but there was no-one there.

“I couldn’t believe how thick the smoke was, I simply couldn’t see anything and a few times I just couldn’t breathe and had to go back.

“I kept going back inside but when I reached the living room, there was no way to open the door fully. When I heard the firefighters arrive I thought the best thing to do was to tell them where he was so they could reach him in time.”

It is understood a couple called Tom and Margaret live at the house.

Watch Manager at Accrington Fire Station Gary Hargreaves said the blaze was not thought to be suspicious.

He said: “The council workers raised the alarm and attempted entry. When the neighbour broke in, he did a good job in attempting a rescue but was beaten back by the acrid smoke.

“Of course we can’t say for certain he saved his life but by opening the door to the room he will have released toxic fumes and given the casualty more time. He certainly assisted us by telling us where the casualty was and how we could reach him. When we rescued the gentleman he had inhaled smoke, but was conscious.”