Heroic bus driver saved the life of man who escaped major blaze at Braintree flat, says fire chief

PUBLISHED: 15:40 12 February 2015 | UPDATED: 15:40 12 February 2015

The fire in Braintree's High Street. Photo: Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.

The fire in Braintree's High Street. Photo: Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.

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A quick-thinking bus driver saved the life of a man who escaped from a burning flat by jumping onto the roof of a double decker bus in Braintree last night, a fire chief has said.

The fire in Braintree's High Street. Photo: Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.The fire in Braintree's High Street. Photo: Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.

The unnamed man was trapped on the third floor of a flat above Ben’s Café in High Street – thought to be part of the Braintree Emergency Night Shelter (BENS) – when the fire broke out at around 7.30pm.

It is thought the First Eastern Counties bus driver spotted the blaze and parked the bus close to the flat so the man could jump onto it.

Around 30 firefighters spent eight hours tackling blaze, which was brought under control at around 3.15am.

The man was taken to hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Today, Dave Barritt, assistant divisional officer of the Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, who was the incident commander, said: “The man was trapped on the third floor and there was no way he could get out.

“If the bus hadn’t been there I don’t know how he would have escaped, the fall could easily have killed him. The bus driver’s actions saved this man’s life.

“It’s an unusual rescue, but it was extremely effective.”

Essex Police said the flat was a shelter for the homeless, believed to be part of BENS.

Officers are treating the blaze as arson and said a man was seen fleeing the scene.

Earlier today, a fire brigade spokesman said: “A man clambered out of a window onto the top of a bus to escape a blaze in his flat above Ben’s Cafe.

“When they arrived at the scene, firefighters pitched a ladder to reach him and bring him to safety.

“The casualty, believed to be in his 40s, was treated by paramedics after breathing in smoke.”

This morning, a local shopkeeper, who did not want to be named, said: “We’ve heard he jumped on to the bus and then climbed down on to the pavement somehow.

“I reckon the bus driver saw the fire and stopped to help.

“All the roof is missing – it is gone. Firefighters are still down there damping down and there are two police cars.”

An ambulance spokesman said: “A man in his 40s was treated for smoke inhalation. He was described as alert, conscious and breathing at the scene.

“He was taken to Broomfield Hospital and is not thought to be in a serious or life-threatening condition.”

The first floor and roof of the three-storey flat was “well alight” and the first floor was heavily smoke-logged when crews first arrived, the fire brigade spokesman said.

He said: “Initially two appliances were sent to the scene but on arrival, the incident commander requested the attendance of an additional two appliances and an aerial ladder platform.

“At the height of firefighting operations, six appliances and an aerial ladder platform were at the scene.”

At 10.30pm last night, crews were still at the scene with the blaze under control. Three jets and three hose reels were being used to fight the fire.

An Essex Police spokesman said: “Police are working with the fire service to investigate an incident at premises in High Street, Braintree.

“Shortly after 7.30pm on Wednesday, police were contacted with reports of a fire.

“Officers attended along with the fire service, who remain at the scene dealing with the blaze.

“Police are treating the incident as arson. A man was taken to hospital for treatment to smoke inhalation. He has since been discharged.

“Police are looking to trace a man who was seen fleeing the scene and is believed to be around 19 years of age. Anybody with any information is asked to contact Essex Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

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