Hero police officers recall terrifying Christmas day fire rescue
- Credit: Archant
Two heroic police officers have relived the terrifying moment when they dragged an unconscious woman from a burning building in Ipswich just seconds before the windows exploded out of the property.
Despite thick acrid smoke and flames leaping from an upstairs window, Sergeant Ali Livingstone and his colleague Pc Ali Maidment risked their own lives to save the woman by hauling her downstairs and out of the property to safety, with less than a minute to spare.
The casualty, a woman in her 30s, was taken to Ipswich Hospital, treated for smoke inhalation and later released on Boxing Day.
But had it not been for the swift actions of the two police response team officers, the outcome could have been very different.
It is not the first time the pair have risked their own lives to save a life. In 2009 in a dramatic rescue, they managed to prevent a disturbed man from falling off an 80ft drop from the parapet of Willis’ car park near Franciscan Way, by clinging onto him.
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The latest drama unfolded on Christmas Day just after 9pm when the officers, both 33, received a call from the fire service reporting that a woman was unconscious and trapped inside a burning property in La Salle Close. Because they know the area so well, they were able to locate the house quickly and arrived before the fire service.
They could see flames coming from an upstairs window so they battered the door down and entered the building, equipped only with a fire extinguisher.
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Sgt Livingstone recalled: “Ali rushed upstairs but had to come back down because the heat and smoke was too much and he was on the verge of being overcome by it.
“I then went up and by this point there was absolutely no visibility. I managed to crawl onto the landing and feel my way towards the room that was on fire and I felt a body lying in the doorway.
“I had to retreat again because it was just too hot and smoky and I couldn’t breathe.”
Sgt Livingstone then went back upstairs a second time and managed to grab the woman by her clothing before both officers dragged her headfirst down the stairs and out of the front door.
“By that point the flames were already over the height of the building and the room was completely ablaze,” Sgt Livingstone continued.
“Having arrived at the front door exhausted and a bit overcome ourselves, the windows started exploding so there was glass showering down – it was like a cross between London’s Burning and The Bill.
“All of the windows started blowing out of the upstairs so we had to drag the woman further away to get her somewhere safe. The fire service then arrived and immediately went in with breathing apparatus and checked that there was no-one else in the house.”
Both officers, who are the best of friends and describe themselves as a “great team”, needed oxygen for the effects of smoke inhalation but both were back at work less than 24 hours later.
Sgt Livingstone who has worked in the town for 16 years admitted that the fire was the “single most frightening minute” of his career.
He added: “I think because you are completely disorientated and you don’t know the layout of the house, you’re always conscious of the fact that if you lose your bearings then you might not be able to get out or you could just be overcome by it. It was very intense.
“We have no training for this kind of thing and if we dwelled on it we would probably never do it because the risks are so great.
“But you do just feel an overwhelming responsibility to do the right thing, and certainly once we knew that the woman was in that bedroom - despite the fact that it was fully ablaze – there was no way we were going to just walk away and say ‘we can’t do this’. We just sprung into action and did the best we could.
“We’ve seen pictures and the house upstairs is completely devastated by fire damage so I suspect we were less than a minute away from it being a completely different outcome.”
A neighbour in La Salle Close, who was among the first on the scene, said: “All I saw was what looked like flames in the bedroom and I came running down.
“Police were banging down the door to get in. Since news of the fire broke, the surrounding community has clubbed together in a bid to rehome the woman’s pets.
By Saturday morning, they had been successful in finding new owners for two dogs, two cats and a rabbit, however help is still needed to house a two-year-old neutered female husky.
Anyone who may be able to help in rehoming the dog should call 07727 635374.