A father-of-six braved a blazing supermarket trolley to rescue two women and a six-week-old baby trapped in flats.
The drama happened after yobs are thought to have set fire to rubbish and left it burning in an alley in the heart of Sheerness.
Heat from the flames melted a gas meter on the wall which threatened to blow up the buildings.
Scaffolder Steve Shepherd, 44, had taken his two youngest children, Lily, 10, and Riley, seven, for a meal at the JD Weatherspoon pub the Belle and Lion and was walking them home when he heard people shouting ‘fire’ at around 7.30pm on Saturday.
He said: “Someone had set fire to a trolley and pushed it up the alley next to the Gateway. I could see the gas meter and gas pipes were on fire so I ran in and pulled the trolley out. But I could see gas was still pouring out of the pipes.
“Then I realised there were people living upstairs in the flats so I shouted at them to come down. I didn’t realise at the time that their only exit was at the back of the building and they had to come along the alley.
“There was an older lady screaming because she couldn’t get out and a younger lady with a six-week-old baby so I just ran through the fire and got them both out and waited for the fire brigade.”
Two fire engines blocked the High Street as crews spent nearly two hours making the area safe.
Steve, who recently moved to Sheppey from Sittingbourne, said: “It’s just what you do, especially when people are in trouble.
“I’ve recently gone through a divorce and my kids are my world. When I saw that lady with the little baby I knew I needed to help them. I hope if I was ever in the same situation someone would do the same for me.”
He added: “Afterwards, a fireman checked me over. I was fine but my trainers were melted. Then the reality sank in and I got a bit shaky.
“The fireman told me it had been a brave thing to do and it had saved their lives but it was also stupid as the gas could have exploded.
“I hope whoever started the fire gets called to justice. There could have been people killed that night – and I could have been one of them. The other people were terrified.
“The older lady was crying and calling me her hero. She didn’t have any shoes on so I had to carry her over the ground which was on fire. I think my adrenalin just kicked in.
“The father of the little baby had been at work and rushed there. When he arrived he just wrapped his arms around me and cried and said he owed me. But he doesn’t. I’m just glad everyone is all right.”
A fire service spokeswoman said: “We were called to reports of a trolley alight by a property in Sheerness High Street at 7.47pm. Two fire engines attended and crews used hose-reel jets to extinguish the flames. The fire is believed to be suspicious.”
A police spokesman confirmed an investigation into suspected arson had been launched.
He said: “We were called by Kent Fire and Rescue Service at around 8.20pm on Saturday regarding a shopping trolley and rubbish which were alight in Sheerness High Street.
“Officers attended. The fire is being treated as suspicious and inquiries are underway.”
Anyone with information that may assist the investigation is urged to call police on 01795 419119, quoting reference 46/83414/22.