Forty firefighters battled to rescue a man from a burning squat yesterday (November 28).
Firefighters dragged the 40-year-old out of the building in Kemp Town, Brighton, but pronounced him dead soon afterwards.
Another man, also aged 48, was arrested and was being questioned last night on suspicion of arson but Sussex Police refused to confirm if the death was being treated as suspicious.
The dead man had not been formally identified when the Argus went to print.
The former school building in St George’s Terrace had been squatted until Sunday, November 25 and it is understood a window was broken to gain access on Tuesday night (November 27).
Fire crews were called to the two-storey building at 3.45am yesterday to find it full of smoke.
A spokesman for East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service said: “Crews entered the building wearing breathing apparatus and used a thermal imaging camera to locate a casualty, who was rescued but sadly pronounced dead at the scene.”
Forty firefighters and eight fire engines spent nearly three hours bringing the fire under control.
Witness Helen Carter, of Hampshire Court, Brighton, said: “The strange thing was there were no flames or smoke visible anywhere but the sky was just lit up with sirens.
“I thought it had been a very nasty traffic accident but then I saw a body lying on the grass under a blanket.”
A cordon stretching across four streets remained in place yesterday morning while a fire investigation took place.
The building was originally St John the Baptist Catholic Primary School, and is owned by St John the Baptist Catholic Church in Bristol Road.
Earlier this month a group of squatters moved into the building.
On November 2, a man in his 40s suffered a head injury when he was attacked at the site.
Kye Dorris, 24, a labourer of no fixed abode, was later charged with causing actual bodily harm.
He appeared at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on November 15 and was bailed until December 27.
The church obtained an eviction order on Friday, November 22 and posted a notice of eviction on Saturday, November 23.
St John’s parish priest, Canon David Foley, said the squat had been boarded up but a pane of glass had been smashed to allow people to get in.
The building was used by St Anne’s Day Care Centre until 2008, when damage from an arson attack forced it to close.
See the latest news headlines from The Argus:
- Thieves break into jazz venue and steal thousands in cash - owner trying to stay positive
- Man stabbed as teenagers clash outside Chicken Cottage
- Seven-year-old's birthday ruined when liquid pours through restaurant ceiling on to his mum
- 3am alarm call for shoppers keen to snap up a bargain
- Motorcyclist breaks both arms after collision with van