A PENSIONER died after a fire ripped through his basement flat early yesterday morning.
Three fire crews raced to the scene in Calvert Road at about 6am, after neighbours reported smoke billowing from the property.
More than a dozen firefighters tackled the blaze – but when they battled their way into the flat they found the elderly man, believed to be 78, dead at the scene.
He lived alone and has not yet been officially identified.
It is understood police officers are trying to contact his relatives in America.
Six houses were evacuated, including the home of a family with five young children, next door.
Fire investigation teams were sifting through the scene yesterday but it is not thought the fire was started deliberately.
Friends said the victim was a hoarder who kept all his old telephone books, and there was no smoke alarm fitted in the flat.
They described him as a nice, slightly eccentric man who kept himself to himself, but he did go to The Mount Pleasant pub for a “couple of brandies” once a week.
A neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: “We were woken up by all the noise at about 6am.
“We looked out to see what was going on and there was a bit of pandemonium with all the fire engines and police cars.
She added: “It is a shock for something like this to happen on your doorstep.
“I just suppose it’s a good job no children were hurt.”
Calvert Road was still closed as the Observer went to press yesterday, and George O’ Reilly, station manager at the Bohemia Road fire station, urged all local residents to have smoke alarms installed.
He said: “I’d like to remind the public that East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service offers free home safety visits.
“I’d encourage people to take advantage of this service and, if you don’t already have one, to have a smoke detector fitted.”
Anyone who wants to book a visit should call 0800 1777069.