A 71-year-old woman died and the firefighter rescuing her was badly burned in a suspected arson attack at a Bolton house.

The blaze is being treated as a suspected arson attack after reports that a wheelie bin had been pushed against the front door and set alight.

Neighbours desperately tried to rescue a family trapped inside the end terraced house in Little Holme Walk, Great Lever, but were beaten back as fire raged through the property at 11.30pm.

Firemen were at the scene within five minutes and found the fire well alight on the ground floor and blocking the front door.

They were informed that elderly Hameeda Begum, her 24-year-old daughter Saima Main and five-year-old granddaughter Alana Main were trapped inside.

Mrs Begum's husband, local jeweller and Labour party worker 70-year-old Chifhty Mumtaz had already escaped.

Four firefighters wearing breathing apparatus forced their way into the house through the back door and searched the property and located the two women and the girl, rescuing Saima and Alana who live in Australia but were on a visit to see family in Bolton But as the Mrs Begum was being carried to safety by a 38-year-old fireman the fire flared up, engulfing them both.

The elderly woman was rushed to the Royal Bolton Hospital where she died, the 24-year-old woman is in a critical condition in hospital and the child is said to be in a serious condition in Pendlebury Children's Hospital.

Three firefighters were also taken to hospital and treated for a variety of injuries.

The most seriously injured is the 38-year-old fireman who is currently being treated in Wythenshawe Hospital for 50 per cent burns to his lower back and legs plus burns to his hands.

Another firefighter, aged 36, has received burns to his hands and arms and is being treated in Whiston Hospital, Merseyside, and a 39-year-old firefighter received burns to his arms but was released after treatment.

It is believed that the alarm was raised by the smoke detector in the house activating.

Police, specialist fire investigation officers and forensic experts are at the house trying to establish the cause of the blaze.

Fire and Rescue Service Bolton borough commander, Vinny Simpson said "At this time our thoughts are with the family and friends of the lady who died, and the other occupants of the house who were involved in this tragic incident.

"We will work with our partners to find out how this tragedy happened.

"I would also like to recognise the outstanding bravery of the fire fighters who entered the property to rescue the occupants in very physically demanding conditions, disregarding the risk to themselves in an attempt to save them".