A bungalow on Copeland Road, Wombwell, was purposefully set alight last Friday morning, according to South Yorkshire Police, whose officers rushed to the scene alongside fire crews from Barnsley, Cudworth and Dearne stations at 1.50am.
Neighbours either side of the property - Carol Lawrence and Erika Wroe - ‘dread to think’ what could have happened if the motorist hadn’t been there to awake them.
The passer-by alerted Carol, 79, to get up and out of her home, and to ring the neighbour at the other side of the property, 80-year-old Erika, who hadn’t woken in response to people banging on her doors and windows.
Erika’s home is attached to the bungalow - which was ‘burning fiercely’ - and Carol’s daughter, Gail Lawrence, said the unknown woman’s quick-thinking actions very likely saved the pair and the man living in the home’s lives.
“By doing what she did, the lady almost definitely saved a life, if not two or three,” said Gail, 56.
“Another ten more minutes and I think there would definitely have been fatalities.
“It was a really serious fire, it’s caved the roof in on the back of the property and everyone knows how fire spreads.”
The resident of the house was uninjured and had left before emergency services showed up, but his friend Shane South has set up a collection of essentials for him on Facebook to ‘get him back to his feet’.
Carol added: “We would like to thank all the emergency services for attending the fire.
“And we would love to thank the unknown, good Samaritan who was driving past and phoned the fire brigade.
“We’d also like to say thank you to Coun James Higginbottom, who came to visit us the very next day to see if we were okay.
“We just want to say a big thank you to everyone involved.”
Coun Higginbottom praised the fast response of the emergency services.
“I was deeply concerned to hear about this fire,” he told the Chronicle.
“I have met with residents on Copeland Road and I am hugely relieved that no-one was seriously injured.
“I would like to put on record my thanks to South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue for their prompt and professional response to this incident.”
A spokesperson for South Yorkshire Police confirmed investigators are treating the incident as arson, and appealed for anyone with information to come forward.
They added: “Police were called at around 2am last Friday morning.
“Police and the fire service attended the scene and the fire was extinguished two hours later.
“The occupant of the property was uninjured in the incident.
“Police believe the fire was started deliberately and are treating this incident as arson.
“An investigation has been launched and enquiries are ongoing.
“Anyone with information is asked to call 101 quoting incident number 73 of February 4.”