Police who rescued woman from a burning house say “We were just doing our job”

Police Officers (from left) PC Nathan Woodgate, PC George Healey, PC Chris Curtis and PC Paula Gilluley. Picture: Ian Burt Police Officers (from left) PC Nathan Woodgate, PC George Healey, PC Chris Curtis and PC Paula Gilluley. Picture: Ian Burt

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
11:17 AM

Brave Norfolk police officers who risked their lives to save a woman from a burning house have modestly played down their heroics as just doing their job.

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Police Officers (from left) PC Chris Curtis, PC Nathan Woodgate, PC George Healey and PC Paula Gilluley. Picture: Ian BurtPolice Officers (from left) PC Chris Curtis, PC Nathan Woodgate, PC George Healey and PC Paula Gilluley. Picture: Ian Burt

The heroes repeatedly returned to a smoke-filled home on Spinners Lane, Swaffham on Friday lunchtime determined to take a woman in her 70s to safety.

The actions of the PCs – all of whom are parents – have been praised by senior fire and police officers, grateful for their courageous actions.

But Swaffham beat manager PC Paula Gilluley, and PCs Jeremy Blamire, George Healey, Chris Curtis, and Nathan Woodgate, from the Norfolk and Suffolk’s Roads Policing Unit, insist their fearlessness in the face of the fire is just what they are trained to do.

PC Curtis, 46, who is based at Swaffham, said: “Anyone would have tried to do something.” He was first in to the home where he was met with “a wall of smoke”.

A police car on the drive of a house in Spinners Lane in Swaffham, which was the scene of a fire and rescue. Picture: Matthew Usher.A police car on the drive of a house in Spinners Lane in Swaffham, which was the scene of a fire and rescue. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Despite the pitch-black house and the smell of burning, PC Curtis took a deep breath each of the three times he went in with the other officers to try to rescue the elderly woman – even once crawling avoid to smoke.

Feeling the wall of the hall as he went, PC Curtis desperately wanted to work out where he was and find the door to the room where the woman was trapped.

He said: “I was just thinking what’s going to be behind the door, a wall of flames?”

“But by this time I was out of breath and we retreated. Because of how thick the smoke was we went back in with a torch. We felt around but couldn’t see anything even in front of you.”

All five officers went in to the home through the front door, but the heat beat them back each time.

It was PC Woodgate, 39, and PC Blamire who went round to the back door and found a route which took them to the living room.

“There we found a lady who was slumped and looked like she was about to fall out of her chair,” PC Woodgate said.

“I grabbed her and called to Jeremy to give me a hand. With the woman under each arm, we lifted her out of the chair and dragged her out of the front room, taking her to the garden.”

There the highly-trained officers from the road policing unit gave the woman oxygen and bandages and water for the burns.

The woman was flown by air ambulance to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital with severe burns and smoke inhalation.

She is now being treated at the burns unit in the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where she is said to be progressing well.

“If that was your nanny you would hope someone would have done the same to get them out. I see it as us just doing our job,” PC Woodgate said.

“It was the first time I had been in to a burning house, but I would do the same thing again.”

PC Gilluley added: “That is what this job is about.”

Do you know a local hero? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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