A 25-YEAR-OLD man was lucky to escape with his life after vandals set fire to a car outside his home in the early hours of Boxing Day.

Firefighters arrived at Bow Street, Middlesbrough, at 2.15am yesterday as the blaze from a Ford Fiesta quickly spread to two nearby terraced houses.

Middlesbrough Station Officer Ron Carr said the fire was so ferocious it blew the windows out of both properties.

"We had to evacuate both houses and had to force a door of a room where there was a young man asleep," he said. "He was severely affected by the fire and was fortunate to get out.

"Because of the weather conditions outside, we got him into the back of the appliance where we gave him oxygen. He requested no further treatment.

"If we had not got there when we did, it could have been very serious. Smoke can overcome you quickly and it only takes a couple of minutes exposure for someone to be unconscious and for there to be a possible fatality."

An elderly man in the property next door was evacuated from the rear of his home as firefighters extinguished the blaze, and was unharmed.

Both houses suffered severe smoke damage and the car, which belonged to a resident of the street, was destroyed.

Mr Carr said the vehicle had been deliberately set alight.

"It might shock the culprits to realise the outcome of what they did," he added. "In these circumstances, a young man could certainly have lost his life."