Police help save man from burning building

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 11:46 10/06/2014
fire escape
PETER DRURY/Fairfax NZ
LUCKY ESCAPE: Hamilton man Andrew Fleming, 32, shimmied down a drainpipe outside his second storey unit after a fire broke out.

Man escapes inferno

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Police helped guide a man from the second storey of a burning building in Hamilton overnight after he was trapped by flames.

Andrew Fleming said he was lucky to make it out alive.

Police were the first to arrive at the scene on Ulster St about 1.40am.

Officers raced to the back of the block of flats where they saw Fleming, on the second storey, desperately trying to get out.

He was back at the scene this morning as fire safety investigator Kevin Holmes sifted through the ashes to find the cause of the blaze.

Holmes said there were no working smoke alarms inside and they were fortunate not to be dealing with a fatality.

Fleming, 32, lived alone and had swallowed sleeping pills to nod off last night. But a few hours later he woke up when he heard what sounded like rustling coming from his lounge.

Initially he thought it was someone trying to break in.

''I opened my bedroom door and it was just smoke and fire. I lay on the ground, looking at the fire thnking 's*** where can I go? I can't get out there'. I crawled around, back into my room and closed that.''

His room had flooded with smoke. The sole exit was blocked and Fleming said he was coughing heavily. His eyes burned, he said.

Fleming ''just needed to get out''.''I opened the window and I was yelling: 'Fire! fire! Someone help me, fire!'''

His neighbours called back and the police were there ,''boom, straight away''.

''I smashed the window with the axe so I could crawl out so I could grab onto the drain pipe... I lowered myself down.

It was dark. They were telling me where to place my feet 'til I got to the point where both my feet where on the officers' shoulders then they lowered me down.''

St John initially took the man to Waikato Hospital in a serious condition, due to smoke inhalation, yet Fleming discharged himself a short time later.

His face was also criss-crossed with scratches this morning from smashing the window.

The former military man, who is now unemployed due to a back injury suffered on the job, has no insurance.

Smith said: "We're very happy that the matter was able to be resolved without the occupant of the flat being seriously injured or even worse."

Holmes traced the cause of the fire to a plug that had been extended from an adjacent flat.

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