A window cleaner who dragged an elderly woman from her flat moments before an explosion sent flames shooting out of the windows was hailed as a hero at an awards ceremony last night.
Gareth Salmon was working in Edensor Road, Chiswick, on New Year's Eve last year when he noticed smoke pouring from a neighbouring block .
After alerting other residents the 37-year-old father-of-two made three attempts to rescue an elderly woman who was trapped in her flat.
After the power of one explosion sent him flying out of the window he bravely went back in and carried her to safety moments before a huge blast, which would almost certainly have killed her, tore through the property.
Mr Salmon was one of three 'outstanding heroes' honoured at the annual Hounslow Community Safety Heroes awards ceremony, held at Hounslow Civic Centre, last night (Wednesday, February 12).
"My initial thought was 'if I don't do anything I don't think I could live with myself'," he modestly said.
"I was so caught up in the urgency of getting her out I didn't have time to be scared. It was only afterwards I realised I probably should have been."
His proud wife Lois was more blunt. "I didn't know whether to hug him or strangle him for risking his life," she said.
Luckily she chose the former, adding that their elder daughter Aimee is now convinced her dad's a superhero.
Mr Salmon, who lives in Ruislip, but works mostly in Chiswick and Ealing, had first kicked down the woman's door and crawled along the carpet under a choking blanket of smoke.
He used a wet cloth, one of the tools of his trade, to stop him breathing in the thick fumes but couldn't find her.
Eventually he was alerted by a faint cry from the kitchen and went round the back of the property, smashing in the back door and climbing in, only to be thrown back onto the balcony by the force of an explosion.
He thought she must be dead but fearlessly returned after hearing a noise from inside. The smoke was so thick he still couldn't see the woman, only finding her when he stumbled into her by chance.
"I got my arms underneath her and dragged her to the back door where a couple of guys helped me get her over the balcony," he said.
"Moments later, the second big explosion happened, sending a 20-foot fireball bursting out of the windows."
Presenting Mr Salmon with his award, Brendon Walsh, Hounslow Council's director of regeneration, said: "Our colleagues in the fire service have commented that it is without any doubt Gareth's actions had saved a life that day. He has rightly been recognised as a true hero by locals as well as by the emergency services as a result of his selfless actions."