A WOMAN is fighting for her life today after a fire gutted her South Tyneside flat.
The blaze in Westfield, Hedworth, Jarrow, in the early hours of yesterday caused what are described as “serious, life-threatening” burns.
The blaze spread through the ground-floor property, leaving the 48-year-old woman with 50 per cent burns.
Six firefighters wearing breathing apparatus kicked down the door to rescue the injured woman, who was treated by paramedics.
A spokesman for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service said the fire is believed to have started on a sofa in the living room.
Although a smoke alarm was fitted in the flat, it was unclear whether it was working, and a fire service spokesman stressed the importance of alarms.
Police were first at the scene and alerted other emergency services.
Last night the woman was named locally as Mary Clare, who had moved into the flat just before Christmas.
A dozen firefighters – eight from Hebburn and four from Fulwell –spent an hour tackling the flames.
Neighbours told how the injured woman, who raised the alarm herself, was rescued by firefighters, who broke into the flat at 2am yesterday.
Sharon Lee, 45, an assistant shop manager, who lives in the upstairs flat, said: “Police knocked on my door and I went out into the street, where I could see flames and smoke shooting out of the flat.
“I watched the rescue people carry the woman into the garden and then put her on to a stretcher.
“I think she had been in the flat for some time after the fire started. She looked in a bad way.”
Next-door neighbour, Lawrence Laidler, 56, said: “The heat and smoke was terrible. There were flames pouring out of the flat.
“The first thing I knew about the fire was when police started knocking on my door at 2am, to check if the fire or smoke had spread into my flat.
“The woman who was hurt has only lived in the street for a few months. She uses a walking stick to get about and keeps herself to herself.”
It is believed the injured woman was taken to the burns unit at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary, but no one there was available for comment.
Police are appealing for witnesses to the fire, but are not looking for anyone else in connection with it.
Anyone with information is asked to call 101 ext 69191.