RESIDENTS of a sheltered housing complex are calling on a council to act after an elderly lady became trapped when a fire broke out.

Witnesses believe the 73-year-old lady - said to be asthmatic - had to be rescued by firefighters after she was unable to reach the bungalow's one external door or climb out of the windows.

Her neighbours described the incident as predictable and claimed dozens of the homes, most of which have just one external door, have inadequate methods of escape in the event of fire.

The residents of Tennyson Gardens in Darlington, say they have campaigned for years to improve fire safety and are now urging Darlington Borough Council to tackle the issue as a matter of urgency.

An investigation by the fire service into the cause of the blaze, which happened on Wednesday (September 3) at around 3pm, is underway.

Neighbour Josephine O’Mahony, 69, said: “This lady is in her seventies and she has asthma – I’m surprised she’s still alive.

“It seems as though the fire stopped her getting to her door and she had no way to get out of the house.

“This incident has distressed and upset everyone as we’ve been asking the council and fire brigade for years to get something done and nobody’s taken any notice of us.

“The last person we had come out shrugged their shoulders and told us to climb out of the windows but most of us are elderly or disabled and one woman only has one leg.

“We want some kind of fire escape because only eight out of about 30 bungalows has a back door and if a fire breaks out at the front, there’s no way of getting out.

A Darlington Borough Council spokeswoman said all properties at Tennyson Gardens met current building regulations and safety requirements and had hard-wired fire detection systems.

She added: “It was this protection that alerted our control centre that there was a problem.

“The Control Centre operator opened the speech channel to talk to the resident and the fire service and Lifeline response team were called.

“The Lifeline response team contacted a family member of the occupier and stayed on site until the property was secured.”

The lady was taken to Darlington Memorial Hospital where she was treated for smoke inhalation.