Aerial footage shows demolition of former Little Plumstead Hospital as major blaze is treated as arson
- Credit: Archant
A major fire which resulted in a former hospital building having to be demolished is being treated as arson, police have confirmed.
More than 50 firefighters were involved in tackling the blaze which broke out at Little Plumstead Hospital in the early hours of yesterday.
It is the latest in a series of fires to have hit Norfolk in recent weeks and comes after the devastating blaze in Great Yarmouth earlier this month which destroyed the bowling alley and indoor market in Regent Street.
Elsewhere this weekend, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service also dealt with a scrap-yard fire in Station Road, Dereham which broke out in the early hours of Saturday.
At Little Plumstead, fire crews remained on scene yesterday evening checking for hot spots in the building, some of which had to be knocked down to allow firefighters to put out the flames safely. At one point the fire re-ignited and had to be put out.
The fire had been treated as 'potentially suspicious' but police have today confirmed it is being treated as arson.
A police spokesman said: 'Police are investigating a suspected arson at the former Little Plumstead Hospital which happened in the early hours of yesterday morning.
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'Firefighters were called to the derelict building on Hospital Road at about 2.10am after a member of the public reported seeing flames.
While investigators haven't been able to confirm the cause of the fire, it is believed to have been started deliberately and police are keen to hear from anyone who may have information concerning the incident.
Officers are particularly interested in hearing from anyone who may have seen or heard anything unusual in the area in the hours leading up to the incident.'
Watch manager Ivor Tomalin, from Mundesley Fire Station, praised crews who initially attended the blaze for their great work in what he described as difficult conditions.
He said: 'The firefighting by early teams was hampered by the fact we had unsafe structures. There was a lot of hard work by earlier crews.
'Because of the unsafe nature we've asked builders to make the structure safe. They've been on the other side pushing the building in.'
A number of crews from across the county were called to reports of the fire at about 1.45am yesterday.
Initially eight crews were at the scene plus two aerial ladder platforms and the fire service control unit.
Smoke could be seen from a wide area around the old hospital and the fire service advised local people to keep their windows closed as a precaution.
By 6.15am the operation had been scaled back and one crew from Earlham and one aerial ladder platform remained.
Families living near to the scene gathered to watch the firefighting operation, which continued all day yesterday.
Flames could clearly be seen leaping out from the top of the building as well as from behind boarded up windows while smoke billowed as firefighters on an aerial ladder platform fired down water jets from above.
The cause of the blaze is not yet known although an investigation is under way.
A spokesman for Norfolk Police said the fire is being considered as 'potentially suspicious'.
Mr Tomalin said: 'The source of ignition is unknown to us and we've got a fire investigation team on site. At this point it is being investigated. We don't know whether it is accidental or not.'
One man who lives near the site said he had woken at about 3am.
He added: 'When I looked out there was a very bright light and the firefighters up in the air trying to fight it.
'There weren't any sirens, just blue lights. All we could hear was the pumps. It's such a shame. It's a beautiful building. It's very sad.'
Another neighbour said he was woken early in the morning by a policeman who told him to keep his windows closed but had not appreciated the enormity of it until after he got up.
He said: 'I came out at 6.30am to go for a bike ride and normally on a Sunday morning wouldn't see anyone but all my neighbours were out. It's a shame, it's a lovely building.'
Another man said he had been walking the dog the night before but had not seen anything. 'We didn't even know it happened until yesterday morning.'
The man said there had been a lot of break-ins at the site involving children which is why fences had been put up around it.
• Witnesses should contact Det Con Richard Long at Norwich CID on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.