TWO elderly women were rescued from their sheltered accommodation in a suspected deliberate arson attack in the earely hours of this morning.

The pensioners were pulled from their properties in Saltersgill Close, Middlesbrough, Teesside at about 1.20am.

Fire crews believe the fire started when furniture which was stacked up against a neighbouring property was set alight.

Matty Stather, watch manager at Middlesbrough Fire Station, said: “If we were a matter of five minutes later that fire could have taken a lot more of a hold and then we would have been looking at more rescues with potentially a far worse outcome for the casualties.”

One elderly resident who lives on the street, but did not want to be named, said: “The man who lived there had just passed away and his family had been clearing out his stuff.

“They’d left some furniture on the pavement yesterday. We think someone set fire to it.”

Another resident added: “At about 2.30am I woke up to banging and thumping. I looked out and there were firemen everywhere.”

Two appliances from Middlesbrough and one from Thornaby attended the incident.

Watch manager Stather said: “The fire was caused due to someone setting fire to quite an amount of furniture that was stacked up against the property.

“This then spread to the building. It is something we look out for because we know the dangers of it. They don’t realise what the consequences could be.

“It could result in something much more horrendous.”

He added: “When we arrived, we were met with the lady out of the window trying to get some air because the property was very badly smoke logged.

“The second rescue was an elderly lady from a property next door but one. She was in shock.”

Both women were taken to James Cook University Hospital as a precaution.

Cleveland Police and the fire brigade were beginning an investigation into the cause.