AN heroic father and son helped pull a cancer-stricken man from his burning Worcester home.

Donald Smith, aged 74, and his son Martin, 42, spoke minutes after they helped Clive Davis, of Himbleton Road, St John's, to safety last night.

Fire chiefs praised the "very brave" pair.

They said they believed Mr Davis started the blaze deliberately.

When Martin Smith saw smoke billowing from his 48-year-old neighbour's upstairs front bedroom, he got his pyjama-clad father out of bed and rushed to the scene outside.

"The smoke beat us back at first," said Martin Smith, who lives with his father in adjoining Stallard Road.

"But we rushed back and fortunately got hold of Clive on the step and took him to safety."

Three fire crews were called to the blaze, which caused extensive damage to the first floor and some smoke damage next door, and extinguished it at 11.40pm.

Mr Davis was taken to Worcestershire Royal Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation but officials there refused to reveal his latest condition this morning.

The Smiths thought the "very ill" Mr Davis - who has lived alone at the house for about 10 years since the deaths of his mother and sister - might have started the fire as a cry for help.

"We went to help him when he set his bed alight the week before Christmas. Something needs to be done before something major happens," added Martin Smith.

John Das-Gupta, Worcester fire station commander, said: "These two men were very brave. They risked their safety to go to the aid of their neighbour.

"It's these types of risks that should be left to the professionals but people react in a split second and on this occasion it was the right decision."

He said the fire service would be contacting social services to give Mr Davis the help he "clearly needs" and make sure he doesn't injure himself again.

City councillor for St Clement, Simon Geraghty, who was quickly at the scene last night, said he been concerned about Mr Davis for some time and would take up the matter with Worcester Community Housing, which owns the house.

WCH declined to comment.