By Michael MacLeod & Cara Sulieman
AN ELDERLY man has died in a ferocious 2am house blaze despite frantic attempts by neighbours to reach him after they managed to drag his brother to safety through a ground floor window.
Batchelor Richard Smith, 64, perished in the blaze at Mavis Bank in Buckhaven, Fife, after hero neighbours were beaten back by the morning inferno which lit up the sky as flames licked out the windows.
And fire investigators revealed the likely cause of the blaze was a chip pan fire thought to have started after his surviving sibling fell asleep leaving it to catch alight devastating their home.
Brother Len, 62, known locally as ‘Big Lenny’, only survived after locals smashed in downstairs windows and dragged him through the gap to safety.
Pulled him out of the blazing building
Teenagers living opposite the pair saved Len from the 2am blaze by smashing his bedroom window with a hammer and pulling him out.
The Smith’s closest neighbour James Adamson, 39, helped firefighters by directing them in the dark to the Smith’s gas mains.
The eyewitness said: “I woke up when I heard the lads from over the road shouting ‘there’s a fire’.
“I came out my bedroom and could feel the heat through the walls.
“It was an absolute inferno with flames coming out the door, windows and smoke from the roof.
“The boys who saved Len are the real heroes. They will have had to breathe in a lot of smoke to get that close to the house.
“But I really don’t think anything could have been done to save Ricky.”
Mr Adamson said Richard wasn’t even supposed to be home on Sunday night.
He added: “Ricky had just bought a caravan and wanted to get away on a week long break, but decided he should stay home for work the next day.
“That’s the kind of man he was – worked honestly his whole life.
“It’s really upsetting when something so sad happens to someone so nice.
“There aren’t many like him.
“He was the nicest man you could meet.”
Forensics experts were still investigating the cause of the fire but are understood to be looking at a chip pan as the most likely cause of the fatal blaze.
One source said: “It looks likely because the fire started in the kitchen. We think the brother fell asleep. But investigations are still ongoing.”
And regulars at one of his favourite drinking haunts, who had been drinking with him just hours before, also speculated that an attack of the late night munchies could have been to blame for the tragedy.
“Sad to hear”
At the Ambassadeur Snooker Club in Leven, one drinker said: “Len liked to go home after a night out and make himself some chips.
“That might have been what happened.”
Another added: “”That’s sad to hear. Lenny will be really upset just now if that’s what’s to blame.”
Stunned staff at the nearby Molly Malones said they had seen Len briefly early in the morning.
She said: “I saw him standing outside smoking, but then he just walked up the street and disappeared.
“It’s strange that’s he not been in, he’s usually here by now.”
Police confirmed last night that they are not treating the fire as suspicious.
A spokesman said: “The victim of the housefire at 8 Mavis Bank, Buckhaven was this afternoon named as 64yr Richard Smith a long time resident of Buckhaven.
“Mr Smith was a bachelor and lived with his 62yr old brother who suffered smoke inhalation as a consequence of the fire. The brother did not require medical attention.
“Fife Police are still looking into the cause of the fire with early investigations indicating no suspicious circumstances at this time.”
Meanwhile Fife Police were also still investigating a suspicious fire at an empty flat in Links Street, Kirkcaldy, which happened at around 12.40pm Sunday.
A spokesperson added: “This fire was started in the middle of the day and I am sure that some person may well have seen some suspicious activity in this area at the time.”