Customers and staff of Midhurst pub save man from fire

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Staff and customers at a Midhurst pub, aided by off-duty firefighters, saved the life of a hotel waiter who fell asleep while a chip pan fire blazed in the kitchen of his flat.

Two customers who went outside the Bricklayers Arms pub in West Street shortly after 9pm on Easter Sunday, to have a cigarette, saw smoke and flames at a second-floor window of the building opposite, where the nearby Spread Eagle Hotel accommodates staff in flats above shops.

While landlord Paul Blackmun called the fire service, customer Jason Hayter raced across and tried in vain to kick in the side door giving access to the building.

In the street, other customers and bar staff shouted to alert Norbert Nowakouski, 21, who had fallen asleep while cooking supper after his shift at the hotel and was unaware of the blaze until alarms sounded. They urged him to throw down his keys so they could open the door.

Paul Blackmun’s daughter, Stephanie, who helps run the Bricklayers Arms, said: “Steve Marshall, one of our customers, and Sarah Bareham, who works here, were the first in to the building to alert people in the other flats upstairs.

“The guy living where the fire was got badly burned when he woke up, grabbed the chip pan and tried to put out the fire. He came out on to the stairs and he was in a lot of pain. Steve and Sarah helped him down the stairs and he was given first aid by Denise Dummer, who also works here, and her husband Keith.”

Polish-born Mr Nowakouski suffered burns to his right arm and wrist, knee and thigh and both feet. He had not been wearing shoes.

As the drama unfolded, three off-duty Midhurst firemen, Matthew Gamblen, Nick Plater and Jon Cole, who were at the Swan pub in Market Square, heard the commotion and dashed along West Street to help.

They and Mrs Dummer, who has had first aid training, called for wet towels from the pub and clingfilm to wrap round the burns to prevent infection.

Stephanie said: “Denise kept talking to him, keeping him conscious and calm, until an ambulance arrived.”

Firefighter Matthew Gamblen went into the building where he grabbed a fire extinguisher and went up to the waiter’s flat to douse what remained of the fire.

His father Nigel, station commander at Midhurst, was among those responding to the emergency call-out.

He said: “I sent two firefighters in breathing apparatus back up there to make sure it was out and we gave oxygen to the casualty before the paramedics arrived.

All those involved in the rescue had done ‘a very good job’, Mr Gamblen added.