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Army veteran, 86, hailed as hero after saving wheelchair-bound neighbour from fire

January 17th, 2023

Firefighters told John Pratt that his bravery had saved his neighbour’s life

An 86-year-old Army veteran has been hailed as a hero after rescuing a wheelchair-bound neighbour from a fire – but his wife described him as an “idiot”.

John Pratt, who suffers from osteoarthritis, saw smoke billowing from the front door and windows of his neighbour’s house in the seaside town of Sandgate, Kent, and went to help.

He ran into the house and managed to pull the woman out of the building and into the front garden.

“Smoke was pouring out of her front door, and I could see her sitting in her wheelchair in the middle of the room on the phone to the fire brigade with flames all around her,” said Mr Pratt.

“I’m not sure how, because I’m not very steady on my feet, but I held my breath, went inside, and managed to tug her over the doorstep into the fresh air.”

“Then I collapsed in a seat in the front garden. I wasn’t afraid, I couldn’t be afraid, I just knew I had to do something.”

‘It must have been adrenaline’

He said his wife had said he was “an idiot, but I told her if it had been you, you would have done the same thing – and I know she would”.

Firefighters took more than two hours to put out the blaze on Friday morning. Mr Pratt and the officers took the neighbour, thought to be in her 70s, into his kitchen, where she received emergency treatment from paramedics for smoke inhalation.

They told Mr Pratt that his bravery had “undoubtedly” saved his neighbour’s life.

He added: “I knew I would never have forgiven myself if I had done nothing and let her burn. I don’t know how I did it – it must have been a burst of adrenaline.”

A Kent Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “Our teams gave first aid to one person who was showing symptoms of smoke inhalation, before passing them into the care of paramedics.

“Our volunteer response team also attended and provided support for the affected resident.”

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