Heacham united in grief for Tracey Swann
- Credit: Archant
Ms Swann, who led the campaign to save Heacham fire station, died when flames tore through her two bedroom Victorian terrace property a few minutes' walk away on Caley Street.
An investigation is under way into the blaze, which broke out on Saturday night. Neighbouring homes were evacuated, as five crews fought the fire using hose reel jets and breathing apparatus.
As villagers gathered to remember Ms Swann at St Mary's Church last night, a rainbow lit up the evening sky.
Vicar the Rev Veronica Wilson said the occasion was not a service, but a chance to remember by lighting candles and saying prayers.
'She's going to be sorely missed,' she said. 'She was part of the wider church community. She did readings at Christmas, she was very supportive of the church, she ran the youth group.
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'Our prayers are not just with her but also with the fire service.'
Group manager Tim Edwards, from Norfolk fire service, tweeted: 'It is difficult to convey my shock and sadness following the death of Ms Swann due to the fire last night in Heacham.
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'My thoughts are with her family, friends and my crew from Heacham, who knew her so well.'
Ms Swann, who was in her 50s, was a parish councillor and organiser of the Heacham Carnival.
Her friend Sue Hall said: 'She was such a beautiful person in every way, she helped lots of people, ironically it was through her fighting support and determination that the Heacham fire station didn't get closed down. She will be truly missed as she touched so many people's lives.'
Borough councillor for Heacham Colin Manning said: 'It's terrible news. I knew her because she was a parish councillor. Tracey was very busy in the village, she wanted the fire station kept open.'
Part of Caley Street remains cordoned off, as an investigation begins into the cause of the tragedy.
Station officer Jonathan Wilby, from Norfolk fire service, said: 'We are very saddened at the loss of life. I want to praise the crews who were here at the scene, who were carrying out an offensive attack to try to save a life.
'What we will do now is a fire investigation, along with our partners from crime scenes investigation, CID and building control, we will work together to ascertain the cause and origin of the fire.
'At the moment we can't rule anything out or in. We will look at all potential hypotheses. We will do all we can to establish the cause and origin, we will leave no stone unturned.'
The fire, which is believed to have started in the ground floor of Ms Swann's house, quickly spread upstairs.
Mr Wilby said two dogs were rescued from the property. He added a risk assessment would have to be carried out before work could begin inside.
A Norfolk police spokesman said: 'The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, however the building remains unstable at this time and a police cordon is in place. A structural survey of the property will be carried out before the scene can be declared safe for investigators.'
Flowers have been placed outside the house, which was gutted by the fire and the fire station, on Station Road.
The Heacham Youth and Community Trust is accepting donations for Ms Swann's family via its shop in the High Street.
Heacham was one of two stations earmarked for closure under a so-called 'least severe option' put forward in September 2015.
Another scenario saw the axing of nine stations and the loss of 21 appliances, along with 90 full-time and 146 retained firefighters' posts.
Norfolk County Council said it had to plug a £111m gap in funding over the next three years. Campaigners warned response times would suffer and lives would be lost.
As the EDP launched a county-wide Save Our Stations campaign, Ms Swann began mobilising support via social media and banners on the bypass. More than 100 attended a public meeting in Heacham in December. Roy Harold, the brigade's chief fire officer, said he was pleased to see so many people cared about their local fire station.
Thousands signed petitions and made their views known via a county council consultation which drew record numbers of responses.
County councillor Dan Roper - then member with responsibility for budget - said there had been 'a particularly strong case' made for saving the Heacham station.
In January, the county council said stations at Heacham, Outwell and West Walton could stay open if council tax went up to help meet the £845,000 it would save by closing them. In February, it was confirmed that the station had been saved.
Ten days ago, Ms Swann re-tweeted an appeal for more people to sign up as retained firefighters at the station, whose crew was the first to arrive on the scene of Saturday night's fire.