A MAN was on a life support machine in intensive care last night after an arson attack on his home.

Police maintained a bedside vigil as David Walker, 37, received treatment for severe smoke inhalation.

Detectives and the fire brigade are investigating the blaze, which was started at the front door of his home in Hartlepool as he slept.

Mr Walker, who lived alone, was rescued from a bedroom of the terraced house in Jackson Street by firefighters early yesterday.

Last night he was heavily sedated and on a ventilator at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

Detective Sergeant Matt Mason, who is leading the investigation, appealed for help from people living nearby.

"The victim is heavily sedated so we have not been able to speak to him," he said. "We do not know what has happened and need people to tell us.

"We need people to tell us what they saw or heard so we can find out what has gone on here."

Police have carried out door-to-door inquiries in the street and searched the neighbourhood for clues.

A forensic examination of Mr Walker's house has also been carried out.

Items have been taken away from the house which will be inspected by scenes of crime experts.

Station Officer Barry Waites, of Hartlepool fire station, said the alarm was raised at 12.08am yesterday by a member of the public, and the house was heavily smoke-logged when emergency crews arrived.

He said: "We sent two appliances but on arrival we were told by members of the public in the street that there was someone in the house.

"We put out the fire in the ground floor and started a search of the house when a male appeared at the front window on the first floor.

"He broke the glass and we put a ladder up to the window and brought him to safety.

"He was shocked and had suffered some smoke inhalation. We administered oxygen before the ambulance arrived and he was taken to hospital."

Mr Walker's condition deteriorated yesterday lunchtime, but was last night described as "stable" by a hospital spokeswoman.

Anyone who can help the police investigation is asked to call Hartlepool CID on (01642) 302126.