AN ambulance driver’s life has become a 'nightmare' after a fire next door to his house 12 months ago has left his home almost uninhabitable.

In January last year an arson attack on 18 Cobden Street, Darwen, devastated the terraced property and damaged the houses either side.

The boarded-up number 20 was found to contain a small cannabis farm while the interior and exterior of number 16, belonging to Luke Slomka, was badly affected by the flames and smoke.

The 44-year-old’s insurers paid out £32,000 to carry out extensive repairs to his house but are declining to do further work until the gutted property next door is made waterproof.

The owner of that property has said he is uninsured and ignored requests from the council to repair it.

As a result water is leaking into Mr Slomka’s property causing his childhood asthma to flare up and leaving him with depression.

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s housing boss, has promised to step up action to get number 18 repaired.

Mr Slomka said: “The fire-damaged house was not insured and the owner is unable to fix the damage.

“One year on the house has no windows upstairs and is letting in water, destroying my home.

“Number 18 looks like a bomb has hit it and I think it will be like this for many years.

“This has made my house almost unfit for human habitation. I struggle to sleep there now as the damp brings on my asthma.

“I’m desperate, my home is like war zone. It’s a nightmare.

“I can’t have normal social life and bring friends round or even have a relaxing evening in front of the TV.

“ My own insurers put everything right at a cost of £32,000.

“They now say they can’t do more work on my property until next door is waterproof.

“I don’t think this is going to be anytime soon, so I am stuck.

“It’s so bad I keep having to go to my mother’s to recover.

“It is causing me depression, which I have never had before.

“I have lived in Darwen all my life and been an ambulance driver for more than 20 years, now based in Altham.

“I do an important job and this is the last thing I need.

“I am stuck with a house which I virtually can’t live in, with all my possessions in one upstairs bedroom, and one which I certainly can’t sell. My neighbours are very concerned. Council officials have been saying they will do something for months but it’s a year since the fire and nothing has happened.”

Cllr Riley said: “Our empty properties team is working to encourage the owner of number 18 to carry out repairs and bring this property back into use. We are aware of the problems that have been experienced by residents. There is a formal process we have to go through and the owner has assured officers that work is in progress.

“Officers will be chasing this over the next few weeks and will look into enforcement action if suitable progress is not being made.”

Police are still investigating the fire as an arson attack but no-one has been arrested.