A COUPLE described running through thick, billowing smoke, in a bid to get outside after a fire started in one of their neighbour's flats, killing an elderly man.
Firefighters from Horley and Crawley fire stations along with police raced to the scene at Longbridge Road, just after 6am on Wednesday May 12 after receiving a call from another neighbour saying they could smell smoke.
Fire investigation and arson task force manager, Bryn Strudwick, said: "We arrived to a fire at one of the flats and unfortunately the fire was fatal and we found the body of the occupant. There was certainly a fire in the lounge when we arrived but we put it out in 20 minutes to half an hour."
Upstairs neighbours James Goyder and Clarissa Watkins, both 20, were woken by their neighbours.
James said: "As soon we opened the front door it started billowing in and our front room filled with smoke which is why all our windows are open. It was very, very heavy smoke - if you put your hand in front of your face you could not see it when you came on to the landing."
The couple, who have lived at the block for a year. say they ran straight downstairs and spent a couple of hours outside while the firefighters got to work, they were asked if they needed checking over by paramedics but said they were fine.
They spent the morning at Clarissa's mum's house because of the smell of the smoke.
James added: "We didn't feel anything at the time, just got outside but afterwards you start thinking about the what-ifs I suppose."
Three fire appliances from Crawley and Reigate were at the scene and hose reels and two sets of breathing apparatus were used.
The whole block was initially evacuated but residents were allowed back in shortly afterwards.
For more on this story pick up Friday's Crawley Times.