A South Shields dad has told how he braved a smoke-filled flat to save the lives of two children and their father as a fire raged in a chip shop underneath their home.
John Houlsby was on his way home from a friend's house when he was alerted to a blaze at the Red Hut fish and chip shop, in Ocean Road, by staff at about 6.30pm on Saturday.
He called for the fire brigade, but after being told there were children in a flat upstairs and spotting smoke billowing from the window, he jumped into action.
The dad, who lives on the nearby Woodbine Estate, told the Gazette how he kicked in the door before running upstairs and waking the sleeping father.
The 37-year-old said: "The staff were outside shouting. I saw the flames and rang the fire brigade. Then I was told there were kids upstairs in the flat.
"I saw the smoke filling up at the windows and I didn't think twice about it. I had to get them out.
"I was a bit worried about kicking the door in as I didn't want to be done for criminal damage, but there were kids in there at the end of the day.
"I kicked the door in and ran upstairs. The dad was asleep on the setee, I woke him up and said there's a fire downstairs.
"He was in a daze. The place was filled with smoke, I just grabbed the kids from their rooms and ran out the door.
"Any longer and I don't think they would be here now.
"I've got kids myself. There was no way I could just leave them."
Mr Houlsby believs the children were aged around four and five years old.
"Everyone was shaken up. The dad was crying and kept saying thank you. He even offered me money but I just told him to keep it and give it to the kids.
"I'm still shaken up myself about the whole thing.
"I have no idea how they are. I'd love to find out how they are so I know they're okay."
Two crews from South Shields and others from Hebburn and Wallsend attended the chippy. Firefighters said the fire have been started in a deep fat fryer.
The shop itself sustained heavy fire, heat and smoke damage. The first and second floors of the property suffered light smoke damage.