An elderly man died in what firefighters described as a “ferocious” blaze at his Leeds flat.
It is believed 72-year-old James Whitburn was already dead when crews from Moortown and Gipton got to the first floor flat above a clothing shop in Chapeltown on Saturday night.
The alarm was raised at about 11.45pm after smoke was seen pouring from the windows of the property at the corner of Hill Top Mount and Beck Road, where Mr Whitburn, known as “Jimmy”, is thought to have lived alone.
Firefighters had to smash their way into the flat before using four breathing apparatus and two hoses to attack the inferno.
Fire investigation officer Richard Hagger said: “The fire was already very well developed on arrival and was so ferocious that it had burned through the floor and gone into the shop below.”
He said the crews worked tirelessly to battle the blaze, but were unable to save Mr Whitburn.
Neighbour Sahibzadh Hussain saw the incident unfold.
He said: “I came out at about midnight. There was a lot of smoke coming from the windows and there were fire engines on the street.
“It was quite scary.”
Mr Hagger said a large hole had been left between the floor of the flat and the shop underneath.
Windows in the flat were boarded up and scorch marks could still be seen on the exterior brickwork of the building yesterday.
The owner of the shop – an Asian clothing outlet and dry cleaning service called Exclusive Boutique – was at the store to assess the damage for the first time.
Part of the glass front door had been smashed and there was major smoke damage to the interior.
Police, who were initially helping the fire service investigate the incident, are not treating it as suspicious.
Investigations are continuing into what happened, but Mr Hagger said he had ruled out an electrical fault as a possible cause.
Mr Whitburn is understood to have worked as a pizza delivery driver in the nearby Harehills area.
His family has been told about his death and Leeds Coroner’s Office has been informed.
An inquest is likely to be opened later this week.