A CURIOUS father who took a diversion on his way home after noticing smoke billowing into the sky became a fire hero.

Terry Jackson ran into a burning building three times to rescue a family stranded inside.

Mr Jackson had collected his son, Robert, from work in Pilsworth at 6am on Sunday and was driving home to Pembroke Drive in Bury when he saw large plumes of smoke.

Wondering where it was coming from, he drove towards the terraced house in Holland Street, Radcliffe.

He saw a woman standing at the window with a baby and ran inside to rescue them.

Mr Jackson, aged in his 60s, did not know the layout of the house and was joined by a neighbour who helped him find his way around.

He had to go inside three times to lead people to safety while Robert phoned the emergency services.

A 21-year-old woman, two 16-year-old girls and a 15-month-old baby were treated with oxygen and taken to Royal Bolton Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation, but were discharged later that day.

Mr Jackson’s daughter, Lindsay, aged 31, of Britannia Close, Radcliffe, said: “There was a woman at the window in the house and she was going to try to throw the baby out of the window, but he told her to wait and he would go inside.

“I think it’s brilliant what he’s done, but I also think he’s crazy. I went mad at him when I found out what he had done. He said he couldn’t wait because they would have died.

”I’m very proud of him. He’s always doing stuff for other people.”

Mr Jackson, a long-distance lorry driver, left the scene when the fire service arrived and went home, covered in soot.

His rescue came just 24 hours before he went on holiday.

Firefighters from Bury, Whitefield and Farnworth fire stations wore breathing apparatus as they tackled the blaze in the bathroom and first floor of the house.

Neighbours were also evacuated from an adjacent property when smoke got inside their home.

Mark Williams, aged 44, who lives opposite the house, said: “I heard a commotion and when I got up I saw two fire engines and an ambulance.

“I think it was toxic smoke, it was really black. At the back of the house, they had to pull the window off.

“I asked if everyone was alright and they said they were lucky. It was really serious.”

The fire started when candles were left unattended on a bath and caused severe damage to the property.

Tony Holt, who was in charge of the incident for the fire service, said: “This incident is probably the luckiest escape I have seen in all my years as a fire officer.

“It could have easily been a multiple fatality — the crews did a marvellous job.

“The house had no working smoke alarm, but luckily a passing motorist saw smoke coming from the property and managed to get a couple of the residents out.

“The motorist then left the scene, but we would like to praise them for their brave actions.”

Councillor David Acton, chairman of Greater Manchester Fire And Rescue Authority, added: “This family could easily have perished in this fire.

“Candles can be extremely dangerous if they are not well attended. If you leave a room, blow them out and always ensure they are in an appropriate holder.”