20 November 2006
A TEENAGER has been lauded for his bravery after climbing up the drainpipe of a Dundee tenement to the rescue of a young family trapped by a blaze.
The incident unfolded around 9am on Saturday at 30 Balbeggie Street, Douglas, while about 20 people were inside the block of flats.
Choking fumes were pouring out of a first-floor flat and the piercing screams of a distressed woman could be heard nearby. First to react was 18-year-old Stephen McGrath, who was in the property directly above.
He ran out to investigate and realised when he reached the tenement landing there was a dangerous fire.
Modest Mr McGrath, who recently completed a fire safety course at Kingsway East fire station, set about alerting all his neighbours.
He then made his way to the front of the building and climbed a drainpipe to reach a young mother and her three childrenâ€” one only two months old.
Car park security worker Mr McGrath told how he scaled the pipe using one hand and his feetâ€”as he was using the other hand to call the fire brigade.
â€œShe (the young mother) was shouting from her window so we were wondering what had happened. Then it sounded like it was coming from the closie. I went and looked and it was filled with smoke.
â€œOnce I realised this, I ran straight out the door and knocked on every door and told them all to get out. I went to her door and told her, â€˜Hang on, Iâ€™ll be there in a second.â€™ I went down to the bottom and she was screaming.
â€œSo I climbed up the pipe and got in the flat. I then opened up the window fully, covered the bottom of the living room door with a sheet and then got them all towards the window and got their heads out so they could breathe.
â€œSomeone went and got a ladder to get them out just as the firefighters arrived.â€
Neighbour Barry Jackson (21) was one person grateful to Mr McGrath after being woken up coughing because of the smoke.
He said, â€œMy dad woke me up telling me we had to get out. There was smoke everywhere. Stephenâ€™s the hero of this.â€
Lead firefighter at the scene, Kingsway East watch manager Fred Cochrane, heaped praise on Mr McGrathâ€™s instinctive actions.
Mr Cochrane said the vital knowledge he gained on the fire safety course undoubtedly ensured the few casualties escaped with minor injuries.
He said Stephen was standing on the windowsill trying to get the family away from the raging flames when he arrived with his crew.
â€œThey were trying to use a builderâ€™s ladder but hadnâ€™t managed to get any of the family out by the time we got there. We really do hope he gets some sort of recognition for what he did.
â€œI believe he took part in a fire safety scheme at Kingsway East with the green watch. Because of the training, he knew what to do. He did the exact right thing because he checked the front door and looked through the letterboxâ€”but knew not to open it. If he had, it would have been a completely different story.
â€œWe never encourage anyone to go back into a fire or climb up to a fire but he was aware there were young children inside, which is a very emotive subject.â€
Last night, hero Stephen admitted that he was â€œa wee bitty shockedâ€ now that events had sunk in, as he hadnâ€™t stopped to think at the time.
A spokesman for the Scottish Ambulance Service said the stricken family were taken to Ninewells Hospital in two ambulances, with the baby being closely monitored for the effects of smoke inhalation. Mr McGrath was treated at the scene.
The seat of the blaze is understood to be a rear bedroom, which was completely destroyed.
A police spokesman said there were no suspicious circumstances and that the fire was accidental.
December 4, 2006
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