NEIGHBOURS today spoke of their shock after a pensioner narrowly escaped a fire which broke out while a freezer was being defrosted with a candle.
The elderly man, believed to be in his 70s, was taken to hospital following the blaze at a semi-detached bungalow in Clovelly Road, Hylton Castle.
Thirteen firefighters, police and paramedics attended the accident, which is understood to have been sparked by the “unattended candle”.
The occupant, who managed to escape the burning property before emergency services arrived, was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital suffering from heavy smoke inhalation.
His injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.
Pensioner William Appleby, who lives opposite, watched in horror as his neighbour was taken away by paramedics.
“There were about three fire engines, a police car and an ambulance there,” said the 69-year-old.
“I could see a figure being put into an ambulance.
“At that time I didn’t know who it was. He is such a nice fellow. He will do anything for anybody.”
The retired merchant seaman and pit worker said he was left stunned by the blaze.
“Apparently there was a lot of smoke in the place and you could see the fire damage from the outside,” said Mr Appleby.
“Thankfully, he got out in time. I just hope he is OK.”
Another resident added: “We all just hope he makes a good recovery. It is such a terrible thing to happen.”
The occupant is believed to have been alerted to the blaze, which was reported shortly before 7pm on Monday, by a smoke alarm.
A spokesman for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said: “The cause of the fire was an unattended candle placed in a freezer to defrost the ice, which ignited the plastic.
“There was severe fire damage to the kitchen and the hallway.
“The rest of the property was severely smoke damaged.”
Housing chiefs today said they are helping the pensioner find alternative accommodation.
Michelle Meldrum, deputy director for Gentoo Sunderland, said: “We have been helping the family of the occupant to secure an alternative home for him to return to once he has left hospital.
“We will continue to make sure that all of his housing support needs are met.”