SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - Grabbing their 22-month-old daughter, they started running down the stairs to escape the fire that was raging in their neighbour's flat.
The stairs were their nearest escape route. But they froze in their tracks when they found their passage blocked by raging flames.
Fortunately, firefighters were there to escort them to safety.
The fire had broken out in a third-storey flat at Block 257B, Compassvale Road at 4.15am on Wednesday (July 20), forcing more than 20 people to be evacuated, said the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).
No one was in the flat at the time of the incident, and police are investigating it as a case of mischief by fire.
The New Paper understands that a 37-year-old police officer was sent to the Singapore General Hospital for breathing difficulties due to smoke inhalation.
Mrs Elysha Suresh, 30, who lives on the fourth storey, told TNP how her family of four, including her 22-month-old child, escaped.
She said: "When I came out of my room, I smelled smoke. I could even see the flames rising up to our corridor through the windows.
"We were panicking, and we didn't know where the fire was, but we immediately evacuated."
They made their way down the staircases right by their front door, but were met with thick smoke and strong flames. It was then they realised the fire had started in the flat directly below theirs.
Mrs Suresh said her 61-year-old mother-in-law was coughing and had breathing difficulties.
SCDF firefighters battled the blaze, and guided Mrs Suresh's family up to the fifth storey to take the lift down to the first storey.
She said: "When we got out of the building, my mother-in-law got some fresh air, and the paramedic assisted her. Our daughter was also fine."
When TNP arrived at the scene at 8am, the charred remains of a clothes rack, shoe rack, wooden cupboard, chair and table were seen outside the four-room flat.
The inside of the flat was a blackened mess with most of the furniture burnt beyond recognition.
The family who lives in the flat declined to comment.
At 9.30am, the family started to inspect the remains of their flat and salvaged items including watches, rice and shoes.
When TNP visited Mrs Suresh's home, a hairline crack was found on the tiles of the living room, and the windows in one of the bedrooms had also cracked due to the heat.
A neighbour of the resident of the burnt flat, who declined to be named, said: "They keep a lot of things outside, such as furniture, a clothes rack and a shoe rack. Most were made of wood and plastic."
A spokesman for Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council said there was no prior feedback or complaints regarding corridor obstruction at the unit.
Firefighters, who arrived at the scene at about 4.20am, had to force their way into the unit, and managed to extinguish the fire with two water jets within half an hour.
Student Marcus Yeo Jin Han, 20, sent a video of the fire to TNP's Facebook account.
He said: "I was worried whether people would get injured because the fire was so big, it reached the unit above it. I even saw the windows shattering from the heat."