Fire which killed 73-year-old Andrew Dunthorne in Mile Cross found to be accidental
- Credit: Archant
Fire safety officers have issued a 'call to action' following the death of Andrew Dunthorne in a house fire in Mile Cross this week after no smoke alarms were found at the pensioners home.
When crews were alerted to the blaze at Penn Grove around 1.45am on Thursday, it had been burning for at least an hour and already engulfed both floors of the house.
Despite attempts from firefighters and paramedics, it was not possible to save the 73-year-old, who lived alone.
Investigators believe the fire was caused by an electrical fault, possibly from an electric blanket.
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Garry Collins, head of prevention and protection at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said when crews arrived they had been faced with a 'severe' and 'seriously developed' fire. The alarm was only raised when smoke had spread to the two neighbouring houses.
'Clearly this fire had been burning for some time,' said Mr Collins. 'The fire was in the dead of night, when householders were fast asleep. The reaction and response times to evacuate are generally a lot longer, and without a working smoke alarm if you are asleep it is the smoke that kills people.
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'It is the silent killer.
'Often we find people have not even made an attempt to escape because the smoke inhalation is too severe has rendered them unconscious. It is at night time when we are most vulnerable.'
Officers from Norfolk Police and teams from Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service will be in the area over the weekend to offer advice.
'The mitigating factors to help ourselves and everyone in the household is having a fitted, working smoke alarm, a maintenance system that will test that alarm, and knowing what to do when that alarm actuates,' added Mr Collins. 'The right thing to do is have an escape plan where everyone gets out and stays out. Do not go back in for pets, clothing, valuables, wallets or mobile phones.
'People are not replaceable but are the most valuable asset in the property. For me this is a call to action - if you know anyone who is vulnerable, come to us and we can provide a free fire safety check. 'It is a tragic consequence that fire is devastating and does not discriminate. If it is left unchecked it will destroy everything in your home, including the people in it. 'The reality in this case is the cause is irrelevant. An accidental dwelling fire can happen to anyone at any time. The important bit is we prepare.'
Yesterday Mr Dunthorne, a Norwich City season ticket holder for much of his life, was described as a 'quiet' man who 'liked a joke'.
Friend of around 30 years Reg Woods, 80, was a regular at Wensum Community Centre with his wife and Mr Dunthorne. He said: 'I am really sorry for him.'
Mr Dunthorne had lived at the home in Penn Grove with his mother and brother, Colin, both of whom passed away years ago.
He was never married and is not thought to have had any children.
'We would just have a laugh and a drink together,' said Mr Woods. 'It's terrible what's happened. He could give a joke and he could take a joke.
'He gave up football many years ago now. Colin was in the RAF regiment, and when he got demobbed, he and Andrew used to go down the pub on a Saturday and march down the football match like a true regiment.'
Mr Dunthorne had been an organ tuner before taking up a job with Balfour Beatty at the Post Office, and took retirement when he was 65.
Neighbours described raising the alarm when their homes filled with smoke in the early morning, and it is thought the fire could have been burning for at least an hour.
Next-door neighbour Marcin Wrobel, 36, said he had smelled burning around 11.45pm.
'I was sure it was coming from my house so I was searching around for the cause,' he said.
'I noticed a socket on the wall which smelt like burning inside. I opened some windows to give it some fresh air and went to sleep.
'About 20 minutes later the smoke detectors went off, first upstairs in the landing then downstairs.
'When I came down there was smoke inside the house, and we called the fire brigade.
'From the outside we couldn't see anything in the neighbours house apart from a light in the bathroom. Probably that was the flames.
'It was quite difficult to breathe inside my house and we took our three kids outside and round the corner so they didn't have to watch.'
Mr Wrobel described the man as 'very quiet'.
'It is very sad what has happened. Maybe if I had phoned the fire brigade earlier I could have saved his life,' he said.
'I thought nothing was wrong but when the smoke detectors beeped I got more suspicious it might be from next door. I don't know how long it was burning inside his house.'
For a free home fire safety check contact Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service on 0300 123 1669 or email@example.com. Alternatively visit www.norfolkfireservice.gov.uk.