‘We didn’t think about ourselves. You just switch into panic mode and focus on getting everyone out.’Courtney Peaker and Leah McKee-Hearne sounded the alarm to fellow residents at The Cube, in Bolton, after a fire broke out on Friday evening.These are the two heroic university students who saved hundreds of lives after alerting neighbours to a fire that ravaged a Bolton tower block.Friends Leah McKee-Hearne and Courtney Peaker were returning from a neighbour’s flat on the fourth floor of The Cube on Friday evening when they smelt smoke and spotted the flicker of a flame inside the building’s wall.
Realising the building was on fire, the University of Bolton students rushed into action and began pounding on doors to tell others to leave.After breaking out on the fourth floor, the flames quickly spread to the top floor of the six-storey student flat complex, which is home to hundreds of residents.200 firefighters battled the blaze late into the night, eventually managing to bring it under control. However, the building’s upper floors have been left gutted.
Two students were treated at the scene for minor injuries, but it could have been far worse had it not been for the quick-thinking of Leah, Courtney and others in emptying the building.A fire broke out at The Cube, in Bolton town centre, on Friday evening Leah, 20, said: “We were at our friend’s flat, and we realised we had forgotten something so we walked back to our flat.
“I smelled smoke and could see a flicker of a reflection on the balcony. Courtney went over, stood there for five seconds without saying a word, and then said “oh my god”.”We looked at each other and thought is this actually happening? We were speechless.”
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After calling security, the pair rushed along the fourth floor, banging on doors and telling people to evacuate.
Courtney, 20, said: “The smoke was spreading up to the upper floors straight away, so I shouted up for them to get out.”To start with, I don’t think people believed it because the fire alarm goes off about six times a day.”As others quickly realised what the girls were saying was true, they spread the word to as many others as possible before fleeing the burning building.
Meanwhile, Courtney remained on the fourth floor for another five minutes to ensure no one was left behind.She said: “Everyone was just working together to get everyone out. It was crazy.”Not one person left by themselves because we needed to get everyone out.”We didn’t think about ourselves. You just switch into panic mode and focus on getting everyone out.
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“It wasn’t until we were out of the building looking up at it that the fear actually set in.
“It all happened so quickly.”We all stood there. No one was speaking, we were just looking up at the fire. All you could hear were people crying, the silence was eerie.”In the immediate aftermath of the fire, a group of friends came to collect Leah and Courtney and allowed them to stay with them overnight.However, they are among hundreds of students who have not been allowed to return home, with many having lost precious possesions.
In the meantime, the majority have been offered temporary accommodation at Orlando Village halls of residence or in hotels around the town. It is not yet known when they will be able to get back into their homes.
Leah, who studies special effects and makeup, said: “I have no clothes other than what I was wearing, no one got anything from their rooms.”Despite what they did, the pair are reluctant to view themselves as heroes and say they are still coming to terms with what happened.”I haven’t processed it properly,” said Courtney, a second-year English student.
“We were very lucky to have spotted it when we did. Two minutes later and it would have been so much worse.”We have had quite a few thank yous from people, but it was a team effort.”We found the fire, but if it wasn’t for everyone knocking on the room doors it would have been a different story.”
A donation page, set up to raise money for the affected students has already raised more than £14,000.The official Just Giving page is being managed by Forever Manchester as part of the Greater Manchester Disaster Relief Fund.
Thanks to the Manchester Evening News for the post:- https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/the-cube-bolton-university-fire-17282900