Leyland pair praised for saving lives after running into burning building in late-night rescue
Two friends from Leyland are being praised for their heroic efforts after they ran into a burning building to save the lives of others last night.
The quick-thinking and bravery of Kim Almond, 23, and Zach Douglas, 20, is believed to have saved the lives of up to 6 people who were asleep inside their Towngate flats when a huge fire broke out shortly after midnight.
The pair, along with their friend Shania Somerville, had been returning from a late-night visit to McDonald's when they drove past a row of shops in Towngate where they spotted the early stages of a fire.
They quickly pulled over and called 999, but the fire was already spreading and growing more fierce. Realising that those living in the flats were likely to be asleep and in immediate danger, the pair embarked on a daring rescue mission of their own.
"It was the scariest night of our lives," said Kim.
"Within minutes the whole shop was on fire and we knew those people upstairs in the flats were going to be trapped. There wasn't going to be any way out for them.
"I've never been so terrified in my life, but me and Zach just couldn't stand there watching and waiting. They needed help and we needed to act fast.
"Something just clicked in us both and we ran to the back entrance to the flats and started banging on all the doors to wake everyone up."
*You can watch a video of Kim and Zach describing the fire and their efforts to get everyone to safety in our video player above.
The pair's frantic wake-up call worked and they managed to get six people, including a number of older residents, out of the burning building to safety.
As they shepherded the frightened residents to the safety of the street, the blaze swiftly took hold of the roof and neighbouring shops and flats.
Zach, a joiner and dad-of-one, described how the metal stairway and hand rails leading to the flats at the rear of the building had become "burning hot to touch".
When fire crews arrived soon after, the building was completely engulfed in flames. Eight fire engines and 40 firefighters battled the blaze until it was brought under control in the early hours of the morning.
You can see video footage of the blaze here.
Six people rescued from the flats have been treated for smoke inhalation and one casualty has been taken to hospital for further checks. Kim and Zach also had to undergo blood tests as a precaution after being exposed to the thick fog of black smoke that filled the air.
The pair, along with their friend Shania and another brave passerby called Robin, have been hailed as heroes by the local community, who have been full of praise for their daring late-night rescue efforts.
But when asked what it's like to be called a hero, Kim said: "It's all so surreal. I don't think it's really hit us yet. We've had so many people reaching out to us, thanking us for what we did.
"But it was just instinct. We really didn't stop to think about how we might be risking our own lives. We just did what we felt we had to do.
"If either of us or my mum or Zach's daughter were ever in need of help in an emergency like this, we'd like to think others would do the same. We couldn't have lived with ourselves if we hadn't done anything and the people inside those flats hadn't made it out.
"We are just so glad that everyone is OK. It could have been a very different story, but we are all alive and that's the only thing that matters."
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