A MAN has praised the fire crews who rescued him from a building after a pile of children's books were set on fire outside.

Paul Jenkins lives in the flat above Bury Hospice's charity shop in Bridge Street, Ramsbottom, outside of which the bag of donated books were set alight.

Quick-thinking staff at nearby Grape to Grain ran across the road with a fire extinguisher to douse the flames before calling the fire service.

Police said the incident is being treated as arson and have appealed for anyone with information to come forward. No arrests have been made.

Mr Jenkins, aged 40, said: "I'm exceptionally lucky I was woken up by the fire brigade.

"They came in to check everyone was out of the building. I was woken up by torch light and flashing blue lights.

"The smoke had started to come in through my kitchen window. It has caused damage to my curtains.

"They were incredibly professional and made sure we were all safe. I cannot applaud them enough.

"My home suffered minor damage but some of the stock at the hospice was also damaged. This has doubled their workload.

"The fire caused some serious damage and was very close to being catastrophic. We think it was five minutes away from everything going up. Thankfully the fire door did its job."

Danielle Gillett, shop manager at Grape to Grain noticed a glowing across the road as the firm's last customer left their bar in Bridge Street at around 1.30am on Saturday morning.

She and barman Mac Barrett crossed the road to have a closer look and saw flames issuing from a bag of donated items in the doorway at the rear of the hospice shop.

The pair ran and fetched a fire extinguisher from Grape to Grain which Ms Gillett then used to put out the blaze, while Mr Barrett called 999.

Ms Gillett, aged 28, said: "It went up pretty quick.

"The fire crews told us that if we had not been there, the whole place would have gone up.

"The whole door went up and it had started to catch the carpet.

"Why would someone do this? It is a charity. We were in disbelief that it had happened.

"It was still smouldering a little bit when the fire crews arrived.

"They were worried about whether there was someone in the flat above.

"It is crazy how such a small pile of items created so much smoke.

"It is quite lucky I spotted it. If we had gone home 20 minutes earlier, who knows what could have happened.

"Thankfully it was all okay, and they were able to reopen the next day."

It is understood the hospice shop staff were called to the incident at around 1.30am.

Councillor Kevin Thomas, who represents Ramsbottom on Bury Council, said: "A bag of donated goods containing books left outside Bury Hospice charity shop in Ramsbottom was set alight.

"Luckily there wasn't any significant damage but it was extremely scary for the resident who lives in the flat above the shop who was alerted and assisted by neighbours and business owners."

Anyone with information, or who witnessed the incident, should call police on 101.