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BIN BLAZE SHOCK; Lucky escape for sleeping pals as arsonists strike.

Byline: CHRIS HOLE

A PAIR of startled young men had a lucky escape after a Middlesbrough street saw three suspicious fires over the weekend.

Jeffrey Yates, of Ajax Way, South Bank, had his friend Chris Taggart staying with him on Friday night.

But the shocked pair were awoken by a neighbour in the early hours of Saturday morning after a wheelie bin kept just outside the 19-year-old's front door was set alight.

Jeffrey, told the Gazette: "It was about 2am when I was woken up by my neighbour banging on the door.

"I looked out through the glass and could see the flames. I was going to try and put it out myself with a bucket of water but my neighbour told me just to get out of the bathroom window.

"It frightened the life out of me. When I saw the severity of the flames my knees just went." The pair both managed to escape the property before firefighters arrived and got the blaze under control.

Luckily, the flames failed to spread to the property and the only damage was to the exterior and the destroyed rubbish.

Worryingly, the arsonists then returned again soon after - this time torching a neighbour's bin.

"We went back in after the firemen had gone but I couldn't sleep," Jeffrey, a trainee mechanic currently looking for work, said.

"I sat on the settee for about half an hour and then I could smell smoke.

Then we heard a bang.

"We went out and saw that next door's bin was on fire. And this time they had moved the bin in front of the door.

"It's made me feel sick. If I didn't have such good news, I don't know what would have happened."

Unbelievably, in the early hours of Sunday morning, firefighters from Grangetown and Middlesbrough stations were called to Ajax Way for a third time at about 3.16am.

The third blaze is also being treated as suspicious after a fire in a property.

"It's sickening," Jeffrey added.

"From what I can gather somebody has thrown something into an open window.

"My neighbour told me that she had opened the window because she had been trying to get rid of the smell of smoke from the other fires." Simon Richardson, crew manager of Grangetown fire station, said: "The night before, we were called to wheelie bin fires on the same street, but this time the fire was inside a property.

"The cause is being investigated but it is being treated as suspicious." He added it appeared "something was put through a window", leaving curtains and flooring severely damaged by fire.

Damage was also sustained to nearby television and speaker appliances and smoke damage was sustained to the rest of the property.

The female occupant was treated for smoke inhalation at the scene.

Mr Richardson said: "It is lucky she was alerted to the fire because she had smoke alarms. We are asking people in the area to be more vigilant. The brigade is going to be in the area carrying out home fire safety visits and making people aware of the dangers." Cleveland Police confirmed they are investigating all three fires.

To book a free home fire safety visit from local firefighters from Cleveland Fire Brigade and where appropriate have smoke alarms fitted - also free - call 01429 874063 quoting ST3234..

CAPTION(S):

DANGER: Jeffrey Yates, on right, and Chris Taggart were awoken when someone set fire to Jeffrey's bin, causing damage to his door, right Pictures by PETER
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Apr 27, 2009
Words:585
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