Norwich neighbour saves elderly man from fire

A quick-thinking man was today praised by firefighters after defying the flames of a burning flat to rescue his neighbour.

Jamie Saunders had just got back to his home in Gamewell Close, Lakenham, when he heard the smoke alarm sounding next door.

After dialling 999 and peering through the letter box, he managed to rouse the 63-year-old man and him get to open the front door before dragging him to safety.

The 29-year-old, and his girlfriend Danielle Croft, then led the man to safety from the second-floor flat and made sure other neighbours were safe. The fire happened at 7.30pm on Tuesday.

'We had just got back and heard the smoke alarm going off,' Mr Saunders said. 'The next door neighbour is quite vulnerable because of his age, so I thought I'd better check and I've had concerns about him being there on his own.

'I looked through the letter box and saw fire blazing across the carpet. I could see him stumbling about and managed to get him to unlock the door. I rushed in and grabbed him out and put him in my flat. I know you are not supposed to go in, but as soon as I saw him, there was only one thing I could do. It was quite scary.'

The unemployed chef said he had experience of dealing with fires after completing several training courses as part of his job working in kitchens.

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'He was upset and confused and was trying to get back into his flat,' Mr Saunders added. 'I ran out into the square and directed the paramedics. I knocked on all the other doors to tell everybody else what was happening. I trained as a chef and it's the nature of the business that you have to learn about fire safety.

'It's not heroic. I would like to think that anybody would do the same; it just shows the importance of people having the knowledge to deal with the situation. I'm just proud of myself for knowing how to deal with the situation properly.

The man, named locally as Beverley Larke, was rushed to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital with severe burns to his throat, chest and arms. He was later transferred to the specialist regional burns unit at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, in Essex.

Miss Croft, a 22-year-old fine art student at Norwich University College of the Arts, said: 'I was trying to look after the man and keep him calm, but I was worried about Jamie trying to be a fireman and going in there to put the fire out himself.'

A fire investigation has concluded that the fire was started accidentally. It is thought that a tobacco pipe had triggered the blaze, which set fire to a bed mattress.

Stuart Horth, head of community safety at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said Mr Saunders had done a 'fantastic job'.

'He did exactly the right thing. He heard the smoke detector and managed to contact the person inside and get him to come to the door, without putting himself in unnecessary risk. We would urge people not to put themselves at risk, but he had called 999 first, which was spot on.

'It shows the real advantage of having a smoke detector - without that, he may not have survived.

'Our message is, if you know someone who is vulnerable or has a disability or a medical condition which stops them getting about, get them to contact us, and we will happily arrange to go around a carry out a home fire risk check to make sure there house is as safe as possible.'

-To arrange a home fire check ring freephone 0800 917 8137 or log on to www.norfolkfireservice.gov.uk

Has your training helped save a life? Contact reporter Shaun Lowthorpe on 01603 772471 or email shaun.lowthorpe@archant.co.uk

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