Terrified residents in a burning block of flats hung out of the windows screaming for help as flames and smoke spread through the building.
Residents in a three storey block of flats on Eastbank Road, St Annes, were trapped in their homes when the blaze broke out in the hallway.
The fire spread rapidly to the top, and gave the woman on the first floor and a terrified couple on the third floor no means of escape until firefighters arrived at the scene.
The couple were seen hanging out of the top floor window and screaming for help, and firefighters had to smash windows to lead them to safety.
Today, brave firefighters who rushed into the burning building have described the moments they launched the rescue operation.
The three people rescued were taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation, and a firefighter also received treatment for burns on his hand, following the fire at 11.45pm on Wednesday.
Twelve people living in the flats were evacuated to the nearby Lindum Hotel, and are now staying with relatives.
Acting crew manager Gavin Kirkham, 37, from St Annes, was one of the first firefighters on the scene and went into the building wearing breathing apparatus with firefighter Dave Noddle, 47, as thick black smoke billowed out of the smashed windows.
ACM Kirkham said: “There was people waving us down before we even got on the street.
“Two people were at the top window shouting for help and people were outside saying there was a disabled lady in one of the rear rooms.
“It was pulsing black smoke from the floor to the ceiling and the smoke was really thick on the top floor even though the fire was on the ground.
“Visibility was zero and as the first crew in we looked to fight the fire, but visibility was so poor we had to use a thermal imaging camera to find the fire, and it felt like we were in there a lifetime.
“When we found her she was conscious but suffering from smoke inhalation.
“Rather than bring her back out into the thick smoke in the hallway we found the biggest window in her room, shouted for a ladder, and passed her through there.
“She was very petite and only about 4ft, so when we scooped her up it was like scooping up a small child, and luckily she was able to be passed out of the window.”
The elderly woman was taken down a ladder and put straight into the back of an ambulance by paramedics.
At its height, 18 firefighters from fire stations in St Annes, Lytham, South Shore and Blackpool were drafted in to tackle the blaze.
Six pumps, two hose reels, a triple extension ladder and breathing apparatus were all used to tackle the ground floor blaze.
Firefighter Noddle said: “Our main aim was to get her out and we knew we couldn’t bring her out through the hallway, so we found the window.
“She was a frail female and we couldn’t really see her when we got into her room.
“You are always thinking about where you are going and what you need to do, and luckily she was there when we went into the flat. It’s always a good feeling.”
ACM Kirkham added: “Her breathing was fairly laboured with the amount of smoke she had inhaled, but she was responsive to everything we said. The biggest relief was getting the message that all persons were accounted for because you know everyone is safe.”
The fire is now being investigated by detectives.
Ian Garrod, station manager for St Annes, added: “The firefighters have done a great job getting people down the ladders considering the damage.
“The window at the front was quite small and the scene on arrival would have been quite horrific for the people waiting for the fire service.
“The people coming down the ladder have been quite brave.”
A spokeswoman for Lancashire Police added: “Detectives are investigating the cause of the fire.
“Anyone with information should call police on 101.”