A quick-thinking town crier, just 15 minutes into his new role, rushed into a burning supermarket in full regalia, ringing his bell and shouting “oyez, oyez, fire, fire” to warn people to get out.
Wearing his tri-cornered hat and cape, Russell Booth, of Horbury, jumped into action after seeing smoke and flames rising from an enclosed area by the side of Mirfield Co-operative Food store, on Saturday.
Former teacher Mr Booth, 50, was in the town centre for the Mirfield Coronation Dance Festival morris dancing event.
He said: “I cried my first one at 11am and around about 15 minutes later the Co-op set on fire; one of the Morris dancers alerted me and I went over to take a look.
“Just as I got there the manager popped his head out and it was the first time he had seen the fire, he went back inside and pushed the alarm and that’s when I thought I needed to help.
“I went round the staff area ringing my bell saying ‘fire and fire’ telling them to get out.
“Then I cleared the post office, shouting ‘oyez, oyez, oyez, fire, fire, fire’, ringing the bell all the time.”
Around 20 firefighters from Mirfield, Dewsbury and Brighouse tackled the blaze, which started in a refrigeration compressor unit to the rear of the store and spread to the main building, burning a hole in the roof.
Mr Booth wheeled a baby in a pram out of the store before clearing the car park for the fire engines to arrive.
He added: “I got everyone out in less than a minute, probably 50 people altogether including staff.”
Watch commander Matthew Goodall, of Dewsbury fire station, has put Russell forward for the station commander’s letter of appreciation.
And a fire service spokeswoman praised his ‘extremely brave’ act.
Mr Booth said: “You don’t expect reward or an award for it. You do what you need to do to help people, whether sacrificing your mortality or not.”
Mr Booth was recruited by Mirfield town councillor David Pinder after he compered an event at the South Pennine Boat Club earlier this year.
A spokesperson for The Co-operative Food said an electrical fault caused the blaze.
She added: “We would like to give a special thanks to town crier, Russell Booth, who assisted the store team during the evacuation process.”
The store re-opened on Sunday.