Man tells of ‘miracle’ escape from fatal fire with jump from third floor

One person has died in the blaze at a block of flats in Reading.

Ted Hennessey
Wednesday 15 December 2021 12:13
The fire-ravaged block of flats in Grovelands Road, Reading (Marc Ward/PA)
The fire-ravaged block of flats in Grovelands Road, Reading (Marc Ward/PA)

A man has described his “miracle” escape jumping from the third floor of a burning building during a suspected arson attack that left one person dead.

The resident, who lives in a block of flats in Grovelands Road, Reading told reporters that he and a firefighter made the desperate leap after becoming trapped in the blaze in the early hours of Wednesday.

Walking barefoot with a bandage on one of his feet, he told reporters: “I was involved in the incident – I live in the flat on the third floor of the building.

Dozens of firefighters attended the scene (Marc Ward/PA)

“I was woken up by an alarm and heard a loud explosion. I heard the people inside screaming and shouting – I think they were my neighbours.

“I opened the door of my flat and saw a big cloud of smoke – and saw that the exit was trapped.

“A firefighter then came in and told me the building was on fire and to leave it now, so I jumped out of the window and so did he – it’s about 12ft.

“I landed okay but hurt my leg. I think the firefighter is in hospital, but I thought it was better to break my leg than die. I think it’s a miracle how it all happened.”

A 31-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and arson following the fire, which has left a number of people still unaccounted for.

Firefighters view the destroyed building from a raised platform (Marc Ward/PA)

Thames Valley Police said one person died in the blaze.

Emergency services remained at the scene into Wednesday, with police, ambulance crews and firefighters working at the badly damaged building.

The force said the incident is not being treated as terror-related and urged people to avoid the area, with road closures in place.

Another man who lives near the scene, who did not want to be named, told the PA news agency: “I was asleep this morning and we could smell and see black smoke pouring in the air.

“There’s been a bit of commotion, I’ve never seen so many police and fire engines in my life.

“The building has been really badly damaged, parts of the roof have been torn off, windows are smashed and smoke has been coming out of it for hours.”

One man said he had jumped from the third floor to escape the smoke and flames (Marc Ward/PA)

In a statement on Twitter Thames Valley Police said: “Local agencies are working together at the scene of a large fire at a property in Grovelands Road, Reading.

“Our officers, as well as the fire and ambulance services, are at the site. Sadly one person is believed to have died, and a number of others are unaccounted for.

“Officers have arrested a 31-year-old man on suspicion of arson and murder and he is in custody at this time.

“If you have any concerns for loved ones, please try and contact them in the first instance. A dedicated number is being set up for this, and details will follow very shortly.”

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