The elderly woman was stranded on the air-conditioner ledge 20 storeys high up an HDB block.
Mr Zen Tay knew he had to act fast. He rushed upstairs, where he met two police officers at the door. But the metal gate was locked.
"When I got there, one of the policeman had already spotted a bunch of keys on a shoe cabinet inside the flat and had used a broomstick to fish it out," Mr Tay, a derivatives trader, told The New Paper.
After trying several keys, the trio got in eventually, but the master bedroom door was locked.
Mr Tay, 50, and the police officers tried to kick the door open - to no avail.
They then went into the kitchen, and one of the police officers managed to stretch out and hold on to the elderly woman's arm until the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) arrived.
By the time she was pulled in, she had already spent about an hour on the ledge, reported Chinese evening daily, Shin Min Daily News. The incident happened at Block 48, Strathmore Avenue in Queenstown on Tuesday.
Though shaken, the 82-year-old woman was unhurt.
The SCDF confirmed that they received a call at 3.39pm. An ambulance arrived within 10 minutes of the call and SCDF also sent two fire engines, one Red Rhino, two fire bikes and two supporting appliances to assist in the situation.
SCDF officers managed to force the door open and rescued the elderly woman.
After the incident, Mr Tay tried to calm the woman by offering her a cup of water.
He also got her to recount what happened.
Mr Tay said: "She told me that she was cooking something, but she forgot about it and the stove was left unattended.
"When she finally remembered, she went into the kitchen to check. To her horror, she saw smoke and started panicking.
"She then went into her bedroom, climbed out of the window and tried to escape the fire by getting onto the air-conditioner ledge."
An elderly man who lives on the 18th storey of the block heard her screams and went to his friend's flat on the same floor for help.
Not knowing where the woman was, the friend shouted to her, asking which floor she was on and they called the police.
Mr Tay, who is the chairman of Queenstown Commonwealth Avenue Zone Residents' Committee, was on his rounds in the neighbourhood at the time.
He said: "I intend to educate the residents about home safety, and remind them not to leave their stoves unattended.
"But the most important thing is really to have good neighbours as they are the ones who can help in times of crises."
This article was first published on June 26, 2014.
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