A fire chief has praised a crane operator for his brave and “incredibly skilful” rescue of a man who was lifted to safety from a burning high-rise building.
Wayne Bowcock, the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s chief fire officer, said that without the actions of Glen Edwards, 65, amid flames and smoke in Reading town centre, “we may be looking at an entirely different scenario”.
Two men were rescued by crane and taken to hospital for treatment for smoke inhalation after the large fire broke out at the Station Hill development site in the Berkshire town on Thursday morning.
Footage showed the moment that Mr Edwards, who later described the rescue as a “close call,” used the winch he was operating to move a cage towards a workman trapped on the building surrounded by flames and thick smoke.
The Royal Berkshire Fire Authority said two team members guided him during the rescue.
Mr Bowcock, who said the blaze was “a substantial fire,” added: “I would like to add my thanks to the crane operator for an incredibly skilful rescue under extremely difficult circumstances. Without their actions, we may be looking at an entirely different scenario.
“On behalf of the service, I would like to extend our best wishes to the two people who were rescued from the building and wish them a speedy recovery.”
Crowds who watched the rescue broke out in applause as the man was lifted in the air.
At the height of the fire, more than 50 firefighters and officers were at the scene along with police, ambulance and other emergency workers.
Mr Edwards, of Egham, Surrey, later told the PA news agency: “I was no more than 20 metres up in the air and I looked out my left-hand window and saw a guy standing on the corner of the building.
“I’d only just seen him and someone said ‘can you get the cage on’, so that was it, I got the cage on and got it over to him the best I could.
“It was quite windy conditions.”
He went on: “I would say it was a very close call, if you look at the video, at the way the wind was swirling around there.
“I tried to put the cage down between him and the flames, but I was hampered by the wind swirling around there.
“But I got the cage down and I managed to get him in there.”
The man was then lifted to the ground.
Mr Edwards, who had been working at the site before the blaze broke out, played down his heroics, adding: “I don’t want to blow it up too much, I’m not that sort of person.”
Another man was also lifted from the building by crane, firefighters said.
Councillor Jeff Brooks, chairman of the Royal Berkshire Fire Authority, also praised Mr Edwards.
He added: “We extend our best wishes to the two people who were rescued from the building. We understand that following brief treatment at Royal Berkshire Hospital, they are now at home, safe and well.
“I also would like to offer my sincere thanks to our crews who attended yesterday’s incident in central Reading.
“Our firefighters were quick to respond to the incident, arriving in under five minutes and worked very efficiently to get the fire under control – this is another great example of the professionalism and dedication of our staff.”
The £750 million Station Hill development, close to Reading station, is intended to be a business and living quarter for the town.