Torquay fire OAP: Don’t call me a hero

Peter and Shirley Smith

Peter and Shirley Smith - Credit: Archant

When the shock of a fire erupts, very few of us know how we would react.

Peter Smith was placed in that position when a kitchen fire took hold in his building in the Meadfoot area of Torquay and the astonishing courage of the 84-year-old former telecommunications engineer potentially saved lives.

Originally from London, Peter has lived in Meadfoot for 30 years with his wife Shirley, who is recovering from cancer, and he reacted with extraordinary clarity to dampen down the flames, stopping the spread of the fire.

'The real heroes were the fire brigade and the NHS,' said Peter. 'It was around midday on Saturday and my wife called me to quickly come out on the balcony because of a fire in the floor below.

'There were two other ladies out there and they were the first to say it was in a flat belonging to a chap called George, who is elderly and suffers from Alzheimers. I rushed down and, fortunately, the front door was open.

'When I looked into the kitchen, there were two lots of flames and one was almost up to the ceiling. There was no way I could put it out but just wanted to stop it spreading, so I rushed back upstairs to get a towel.

'I managed to beat down the flames and almost put one of them out before the Fire Brigade arrived. I wasn't taken to hospital, as the firefighters and NHS treated me on the scene – they were absolutely wonderful.

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'The kitchen was badly damaged from the flames. The worst thing was the smoke and I was black from the soot when I went outside.

'The firefighters said I did two things, one good and one bad. They said I shouldn't have gone into the flat but my actions had helped to stop the spread. They gave me oxygen and checked me over in the ambulance.

'But, I'm no hero, just a concerned citizen.'

We'll avoid the tag 'hero' for Peter, just settle for an incredibly brave, quick-thinking superstar.