'Hero' bin worker on his rounds rescues man, woman and dog from Tipton house fire

Steve Whitehouse has been hailed a hero after the triple rescue
Fire crews were called to the blaze, but bin worker Steve had already rescued the three inside. Credit: West Midlands Fire Service

A bin worker on his rounds has been hailed a "hero" after rescuing a man, woman and dog from a fire at a maisonette.

Serco employee Steve Whitehouse, who's 49 and known as "Winnie" to his colleagues, was on his trade waste round with driver Kevin Marriott, when they spotted the blaze on Ridgeway Road in Tipton.

It broke out earlier this morning (Tuesday 27th February) and fire crews responded just after 8am, after being contacted by several 999 callers.

Fire damage at the property in Tipton Credit: West Midlands Fire Service

While crews were on-route, quick-thinking Steve got out of the bin lorry, leapt over a fence and scaled a wall to the maisonette balcony, where he pulled the woman to safety.

He climbed the balcony three times to rescue all three occupants from the smoke and billowing flames.

Watch the full report here.

Tiffany Dupree who lives in the maisonette said she remembers 'screaming' when she saw the fire and told her partner Zac to get out.

She said: I've gone to open it and it just blew straight off the hinges. Where I found the strength from I don’t know but I've pushed it back on itself and that’s when I screamed to him the flat’s on fire, let's just get out.

"Really grateful what they did for us, really grateful.”

Zac said: “If it hadn’t been a bin day they wouldn’t have been around and we’d have been up on the balcony for how long?”

Steve, who’s worked as a Refuse Operative in Sandwell since 2007, said: “I saw a young woman screaming from the balcony and all I could think was that I needed to get to her as quickly as possible.”

“The smoke was getting thicker. I called to anyone else who might be inside and could hear a young man shouting in distress for his dog.

"I managed to bundle up the dog in a blanket, jumped back down to the ground, and got the owner to throw the dog to me. I then went back up to help him.”

The damage to the maisonette Credit: West Midlands Fire Service

Steve then started banging on neighbours’ doors to alert them to the danger.

His colleague Kevin attended to neighbours who had evacuated their homes for safety.The pair then continued with their round, after having a coffee to recover.

Steve said: “It was second nature, I would do it again. I just did what I had to do, I was here and I'm just happy they are safe and well."

Kevin said: "We aren't just binmen, we are human beings, we'll help anybody out."

Four fire engines with 19 firefighters from Tipton, Dudley, Bilston and Wednesbury fire stations were at the scene - the first arrived within four minutes of being mobilised.

"We will be putting him forward for official recognition"

Tipton Watch Commander Chris Green, the incident commander, said:

“It was clear as we approached that this was a severe fire. I have no doubt that, without Steve’s incredible bravery, the outcome could have been very different.“

"I have no idea how he managed to do what he did. It was heroic. The fire and smoke were coming out of the property’s rear door like a blow torch.

“One rescue would have been remarkable. To save the lives of two people and a dog is staggering. We will be putting him forward for official recognition".

”Councillor Danny Millard, Sandwell Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Highways, said:

“I would like to thank Steve and Kevin for their quick-thinking actions and for the way they supported residents and the fire service.

"Our bin crews already do an important job for Sandwell residents, and I praise Steve, Kevin and the rest of their crew’s efforts to continue with the day job and complete the collection round following this incident.”

The fire is thought to have started when an e-bike battery exploded while on charge at the bottom of the stairs – cutting off the occupants’ escape route.

A man in his twenties was given first aid before he was taken to hospital suffering from the effects of smoke.

Paramedics also checked over a woman in her twenties. The dog was given oxygen therapy by firefighters.

The fire, which was out by 9am, destroyed the contents of the flat.

Fire crews are now reminding the public about the dangers of e-bike battery safety.