Neighbours describe battle to save Ditchingham fire victim
- Credit: Nick Butcher
A man has described how he was hit by a wall of smoke as he tried in vain to enter a burning building to rescue an elderly woman who died in Ditchingham last night.
Jonathan Robinson, who lives two doors away from the scene of the fire in Loddon Road, called 999 before trying to enter the semi-detached home.
The 46-year-old said: 'I could see the old lady's house was on fire and I thought I'll try her side door, and it opened and with that clouds of smoke came billowing out.
'I had a torch on me and I thought 'shall I or shan't I go in', and I thought, I need to leave it to the professionals.'
At one point, four fire appliances were at the scene of the blaze which broke out about 9pm and it was later in the night that police confirmed that a woman had died.
The alarm was first raised by Mr Robinson's wife Kathryn who smelt smoke.
He said: 'She went outside the front of the house. Then she was running down the road in her pyjamas and shouted at me to dial 999 because a house was on fire.
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'Kathryn banged on the house next door and got them out.
'Within three minutes the lounge was really on fire, and within five minutes the fire engine was here.
'We found out about 10.30pm that somebody had died.
'It is shocking – you think 'if I'd have gone in, could I have pulled her out'.'
Carol Buggs, 69, lives in the house directly next to the fire-hit property with her 75-year-old husband Sidney.
The couple, who have lived in the street for 44 years, escaped without injury after being alerted by Mrs Robinson.
Mrs Buggs said: 'About 9pm we heard some loud bangs and my husband said 'it sounds like the children are still letting fireworks off'.
'I was about to go upstairs to look out the window when my doorbell rang and it was Kathryn saying get out of the house.
'The house was already well alight and flames were coming out of the windows and the smoke was very bad, even outside.'
Mrs Buggs said the victim, who lived alone, was aged in her 60s and had lived in the property for six or seven years.
She said: 'She was a very disabled lady and walked with a walking frame. You never saw her outside in the garden or anything.
'I knew she would have been in the house because she never went out.
'It's sad really. It's a horrible way to go.'
Chief fire officer Roy Harold said at its height the blaze created billows of smoke because the building's walls contained reeds which caused smouldering.
The damage to the house, which is believed to be 100 years old, was mainly confined to the living room where the fire is thought to have started.
A smoke alarm was installed on the house and Mr Harold urged people to check their safety devices
A spokesman for Norfolk police said last night: Officers were called to an address on London Road by the fire service at around 9.15pm after reports of a fire at a residential property. Sadly one person within the premises has died.'
At the start of the fire, one eyewitness tweeted: 'Lot of smoke and flashing lights at the back of the house.'