An arsonist is suspected of starting a fire on the mother and baby floor of a hostel in Brighton this morning (Tuesday 6 September).
East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said: “We were called at 10.56am to reports of a fire in a hallway at an address in Percival Terrace, Kemp Town. Rubbish in the basement of a property was alight.
“All persons were accounted for. Firefighters used four breathing apparatus and two hose reel jets to put the fire out. They cleared the smoke with a PPV (positive pressure ventilation) fan.
“A fire investigation was carried out and it is thought the fire may have been started deliberately.”
One of the hostel residents, Daniel Harris, helped to tackle the fire. He said: “The fire alarms went off. I went downstairs and checked with the office because we have many false alarms. The staff members said, it’s a real fire.
“We shouted for everyone to leave the building immediately. There was panic. When I was informed that it was the basement, where the mothers and babies are, I instantly assisted because the staff were having trouble getting the fire extinguishers off the wall due to cable ties. I grabbed the knife and cut it.
“One member of staff assisted people out of the building and the other came down with me. There were some pillows on fire when we got into the basement.
“A mother was kicking in another door thinking someone was in there but she wasn’t. I shouted for her to leave and attempted to extinguish the fire.
“There was a lot of smoke and the fire was difficult to tackle as I needed to cover myself from the smoke inhalation. I eventually got the fire and ran out of the building.
“The emergency services were on site within five minutes thankfully. Jan, a resident with cancer, was still in her room so I had to bang on her window. But we got her out.”
Mr Harris said: “These places are drama after drama. I caught people injecting drugs the other day, an assault on Saturday and today this.”
He chairs a tenant group, ETHRAG (Emergency and Temporary Housing Residents Action Group), and added: “We are extremely concerned that support services have been taken away, which I believe is having a huge effect on people.
“They feel isolated and desperate. This is dangerous for vulnerable people.”