TWO lifesaving heroes are furious that a man who played an "insignificant" role in the rescue of a 91-year-old man from a burning house is in line for a top bravery award.
James Cregg, 25, of Arthur Street, and Robert Morton, of Barnes Street, both Clayton-le-Moors, have been angered by reports that 58-year-old Vernon Barratt was to receive a Public Hero of the Year award and get the chance to meet Prime Minister Gordon Brown at a glittering ceremony.
Kazimierz Sienkiewicz, known as Kaz, of Barnes Street, Clayton, was stuck in his blazing back bedroom last October after his leg went through the floorboards as he tried to escape the fire which quickly took over his home.
He was found by James and Robert, thigh-deep in the floor, trying to release himself using his arms which were both engulfed in flames.
James said: "We were walking down the street when we heard Kaz’s cries. We tried to get in the front door but couldn’t so we went round the back in sheer desperation.
"The house was totally filled with thick black smoke, making it really difficult to breathe.
"After a few minutes we managed to make our way up the stairs to help him before slowly trying to make our way back out.
"As we reached the bottom of the stairs we were met by Scott Bird, who took Kaz from us so we could all get out quicker. Scott dragged Kaz into his back yard away from the fire.
"Up until this point Vernon Barratt had no involvement in the rescue. He only appeared once we had got into the yard. His contribution was simple – he carried Kaz out of the yard and round to the front of the house."
Robert said: "This is absolutely unbelievable. We are not complaining so that we will get an award ourselves but we think it’s disgusting.
"James and I risked our lives that day without even a thought. If anyone should be meeting the Prime Minister at these awards it should be us."
Former Hyndburn Fire Station manager Ian Potter, who attended the fire, confirmed: "Without a doubt the actions of James and Robert saved Mr Sienkiewicz’s life.
"In my opinion they were the only two members of the public who stepped above the call of duty that day and that is why I have nominated them both for the Chief Fire Officer’s commendation, which they should hear about soon."
A spokesman for the Fire Service’s National Benevolent Fund, which nominated Mr Barratt after seeing his version of events on another newspaper’s website, said: "There has been a conflict of stories.
"We have now decided to delay Mr Barratt’s nomination until next year so that we can look into the facts more closely.
"We want to make sure that all our winners are worthy and that an award is not given to the wrong person."
Mr Barratt, who was visiting his nephew in Clayton at the time of the fire, is now believed to be living in Wrexham and could not be contacted for comment.