Robert McNicol, 51, suffered smoke inhalation while rescuing his neighbour from an apartment fire Friday night. The blaze at the Simcoe St. highrise sent a 50-year-old man to hospital in serious condition with burns to a large portion of his body. (DALE CARRUTHERS, The London Free Press)

For the second time in less than two weeks smoking is suspected as the cause of a fire at a London highrise.

In the first case, a man died. In the second, Friday night, a 50-year-old man was taken to hospital in serious condition with burns on most of his body after he was found engulfed in flames in his Simcoe St. apartment.

That fire came just 12 days after Bob Anderson, 52, died after firefighters found him engulfed in flames inside his Belmont Dr. apartment.

Anderson, who had muscular dystrophy, was a smoker with mobility issues. Investigators haven’t determined a cause, but smoking is suspected.

Both fires happened in highrises that house people with mental and physical handicaps.

In Friday’s blaze, the injured man wasn’t physically disabled, but the fire could have been deadly if not for a quick-thinking neighbour.

Robert McNicol, 51, was at home Friday about 10:30 p.m. when he heard the building’s smoke alarm.

Stepping outside his 11th-floor unit, he smelled smoke and realized it was coming from his neighbour’s apartment.

Knowing opening the door could trigger a dangerous backdraft, McNicol slowly pulled the door open and saw his neighbour, known only as Jimmy, engulfed in flames.

“I just looked and there was Jimmy burnt, right in front of me,” McNicol said.

“He was just kind of standing there all stunned and burning.”

McNicol and another neighbour dragged Jimmy out of the apartment and patted out his flaming clothes.

“He was on fire. His clothes were burning when I pulled him out,” said McNicol, who spent the night in hospital being treated for smoke inhalation.

Jimmy was taken to hospital, where he remained in serious condition Sunday.

Police say alcohol was a ­factor in the fire and smoking is the likely cause, though the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office is still investigating.

It was the second fire in recent months in the 11th-floor unit. On July 4, the same man suffered burns and smoke inhalation in a similar blaze.

“It was confirmed by the investigators that he was smoking in bed at the time,” said Const. Ken Steeves.

The building had to be evacuated and the fire caused $10,000 damage.

dale.carruthers@sunmedia.ca

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via The London Free Press.