A PENSIONER is lucky to be alive after a blaze broke out in his home, say firefighters.

William Blackford, 79, was asleep at his home in Marlborough, Seaham, east Durham, when he was woken by his smoke alarm going off in the early hours of yesterday.

He fought his way downstairs through flames and smoke, and opened a window to provide ventilation.

But the influx of oxygen made the fire worse, and Mr Blackford suffered minor burns as he left the house.

Fire officers gave him oxygen at a neighbour's home, and he was taken to Sunderland Royal Hospital suffering from the effects of smoke inhalation.

Seaham Station Officer Steve Donnelly said: "The crews coped extremely well to contain the fire as well as they did. Without a doubt, the smoke alarm saved Mr Blackford's life.

"We would urge everyone to get smoke alarms and to seek advice if they need it.

"If people have a fire, we would urge them to get out and stay out, and not to try anything - because, as Mr Blackford found out, by opening windows and doors you increase the danger to yourself."

SO Donnelly said it was too early to determine the cause of the fire, which left the house severely damaged.