Man who broke into burning Ilford nightclub to save squatters describes ‘crazy’ scenes
PUBLISHED: 15:38 05 August 2013 | UPDATED: 15:43 05 August 2013
A passer-by who broke into a burning squat to save the people inside yesterday has described the “crazy” scenes in Ilford as flames swept through a disused nightclub.
At least eight people escaped the fire in the former Princess Palace, in Chapel Road, Ilford at around 2am.
Aaron Tubby, 27, was on his way home from work when he saw a man lying on the ground beneath an open window.
He said: “I was trying to help the guy and the next thing I knew the window exploded above us and everybody started screaming. It was crazy.
“We broke down the door and went up the stairs. I tried to put the fire out with an extinguisher but it ran out.
“One of the squatters was asleep on a sofa and I woke him up. His foot was on fire and his sock had melted. The smoke was choking us.”
Aaron and the squatter escaped as 21 firefighters from Ilford, Stratford, East Ham and Dagenham arrived to tackle the blaze.
They were taken to Queen’s Hospital, in Romford, for treatment.
Other squatters are thought to have escaped out of a rear exit of the former club.
Aaron said the man he rescued believed his sock might have been set alight by a candle.
He added: “In the ambulance he said he thought he blew the candles out but woke up with his sock alight. He was sleeping on the sofa.”
Rumours on Twitter that some people jumped out of windows to escape are unconfirmed but Aaron said the man he initially found on the floor was “in a bad way”.
He added: “Maybe he had jumped out the window – he was right underneath it.”
Ilford watch manager Martin Knight said: “There were squatters living on the first and second floor and they had a couple of sofas in there.
“There’s no electricity so they use candles. We think that’s what started the fire.
“There was a lot of confusion because we had a lot of people inside but no one was trapped and the fire was out very quickly.”
Despite extensive smoke damage to the building, Mr Knight said the Coral betting shop below was not damaged.
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