DOZENS of people in Littlehampton were forced to evacuate their homes following a late-night blaze at a flats complex in the town.
About 50 people fled their properties in South Terrace, when smoke alarms were triggered at the Kingmere flats complex, in South Terrace, on Monday evening (December 9).
More than a dozen firefighters from stations in Littlehampton, East Preston, Worthing and Bognor Regis, supported by a volunteer crew from the Red Cross, attended the emergency, shortly after 10.30pm.
Watch Commander Niall Cooper, of West Sussex Fire and Rescue, said when crews arrived they were welcomed by homeowners who had already escaped from the building.
He said: “As we arrived, there was no visible fire at the time. But there was a lot of people who had evacuated from the front and back of the property. It was a tricky task because we had to find the right people to question and to find out whether anyone was still in the flat.
“Thankfully, everyone who had evacuated remained very calm and were really helpful.”
The fire had sparked in the electrical cupboard of a ground-floor flat.
Officers, wearing breathing apparatus, entered the building, located the ablaze property and went in to tackle the fire.
The male owner of the flat had already evacuated from the flat.
“As officers entered they encountered a lot of smoke,” Niall said. “When they opened the front door a thick plume of it billowed out.”
Fire crews used four high-pressure hose reels to quell the blaze, which is believe to have started accidentally.
About five per cent of the flat was damage by the fire, with 20 per cent suffering damage from a combination of heat and smoke.
However, Niall admitted this could have been a lot worse, if it had not been for the quick-thinking actions of the flat’s owner, who closed the doors to the ablaze room, before evacuating.
“By shutting the doors to his lounge, he saved a lot of his property from being damage as a result of the blaze,” Niall explained.
Niall is now urging homeowners to be cautious about using electric decorations over the festive period. He has advised people to not overload plug sockets and ensure cables are not run underneath carpeting, where faults would remain hidden.