A TEENAGER was today praised by firefighters after she saved the life of an 87-year-old man burned in a chip pan blaze.

Michelle Humphrey, of Ivinson Road, Darwen, has been hailed a hero for rescuing the pensioner after hearing his smoke alarm.

The 17-year-old had been helping pals Emma and Tammy Wilson, 15 and 14, with their paper round in Moor Lane shortly before 4pm yesterday.

Passing motorist Helen Sherry, of Ambleside Drive, Darwen, also saw flames coming from the kitchen window and, as she rang 999, Michelle helped the man to safety outside and started first aid.

Her actions were described as "fantastic" by Lancashire Fire and Rescue's assistant divisional commander, Gary Monk, and her mum Susan Humphrey was very proud.

Mr Monk said: "The elderly man had left a pan of fat on the cooker unattended. Luckily he had a smoke alarm but he went back into the kitchen and, unfortunately, we think he has tried to put the fire out with water, which is the worst thing anyone can do. The fire flashed up and burned him on the arms and head.

"Mrs Sherry spoke to the girls and rang us while Michelle took the lead.

"She went inside and put a wet tea towel over her mouth. She's done a fantastic job and as a team they worked really well. Michelle even had the presence of mind to ventilate the house by opening all the windows."

The man was taken to Blackburn Royal Infirmary suffering burns to his head and arms but they were not thought to be life-threatening.

His daughter was travelling from her home in Hull last night to be with him.

Michelle, a Moorland High student, hopes to get a place on a Training 2000 course to eventually work with the elderly.

Her mum Susan said: "We're very proud and she is buzzing. She has always wanted to work with elderly people so this is a big boost for her."