Desperate efforts to save ‘best neighbour ever’ who died in devastating fire

Heartbroken locals have described their desperate efforts to save “the best neighbour ever” from a devastating 4am house fire.

Andy Pickwell, a care worker in his 50s, died as a result of the tragic blaze in Wigan in the early hours of yesterday (July 13).

Neighbours have told how they tried to enter his home, but were forced back by plumes of thick black smoke, the Manchester Evening News reports.

As an investigation into the cause of the fire continued today (Sunday), residents paid moving tributes to Mr Pickwell, who was a respected care worker who looked after adults with learning disabilities and who loved to build and maintain bicycles.

He lived alone at the semi-detached property on Newstead Road in Goose Green, Wigan, with his pet cat, Limpy, who survived the fire.

One resident, who declined to be named, said: “We were awake with the baby and we heard a banging noise and I thought it was glass shattering. We thought someone was being burgled.

“I looked outside and saw this black smoke. Me and other neighbours tried to get in through the front door but the smoke was too thick.

“He always left the door unlocked. Then we climbed onto the flat roof and tried banging on his bedroom window.”

He described how he and other neighbours then helped evacuate another neighbour, also a carer, and a teenage boy with mobility difficulties from the next-door property.

His partner added: “It was more-or-less then that the fire engines came. They were here really quickly.”

She said at first she suspected Mr Pickwell could not have been at home and she sent him a message saying: “Your house is on fire. Are you safe?”

Another resident said: “He was a lovely man. He would do anything for anybody.

“I knew his mum. He was the best neighbour you could ever have really. It’s just devastating.”

Angela Critchley said Mr Pickwell “worked hard” as a carer looking after adults with learning difficulties.

But building and looking after bicycles was “the love of his life”, she said.

She added: “He would love being out in his garden. He would always be showing us what he had bought. He loved riding them and loved his cat Limpy.

“He always used to say ‘if anything happens to me look after my cat’.”

The cat had been unharmed and had been sent to a new home, she said.

Residents believe Mr Pickwell was in his bedroom at the time of the blaze.

“I just pray he never suffered. I would like to think it was just the smoke that got him in the end,” said Ms Critchley.

Another neighbour said: “He was a nice man, a private man and a lovely guy. He would always speak to you and ask how you were.”

Another said: “Andy was always polite and kept himself to himself.”

Mr Pickwell grew up at the home. He lived there alone after his parents died, according to residents.

Investigators remained at the scene today to establish the cause of the fire. Specialist fire service ‘search dogs ‘ were sent into the property.

A spokesperson for GMP said: “At around 4am on Saturday, July 23, 2022, we were called by the fire service responding to an incident in the Goose Green area of Wigan. A man was sadly pronounced dead at the scene.

“An investigation is underway. Anyone with information should contact police via gmp.police.uk quoting 549 23/07/22. Information can also be shared anonymously via the independent charity – Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said: “At around 4am on Saturday, July 23, crews were called to reports of a fire at a semi-detached home on Newstead Road, Wigan.

“Four fire engines from Wigan, Hindley and Skelmersdale fire stations quickly attended the incident. Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus used two hose reel jets to extinguish the fire.

“Firefighters rescued a man from the property who was then taken to hospital by colleagues from North West Ambulance Service (NWAS).

“Fire crews remain in attendance and fire investigation officers are working with Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to determine the cause of the fire.”