Old Buckenham mourns loss of woman in house fire

A senior firefighter made a plea to older people in Norfolk to step up their fire safety after a widow died following a blaze at her home.

A village was left in shock after the pensioner died in hospital after being rescued by firefighters during the drama in Church Lane, Old Buckenham, near Attleborough.

Kathleen Sillett, 85, was found unconscious in her home after Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service was called out by a neighbour at about 11.50pm on Wednesday night.

The widow, who lived alone, passed away at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in the early hours of yesterday. An inquest was opened and adjourned in Norwich today.

The tragedy prompted the fire service to urge older people and their carers and families to improve their fire safety after five people over the age of 60 died in house blazes in Norfolk during the past 12 months.

Stuart Horth, head of community safety at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said the cause of the Old Buckenham blaze had not yet been established and an investigation had been launched. However, the semi-detached house had a working smoke alarm.

He added that all of the people who had died in accidental house fires in Norfolk in the past four years had been older people.

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'We're asking if you know somebody who is an older person, particularly if they are less mobile or have health issues, we want you to contact us or to get the agreement of that person to contact us. We will go out and give their home a free fire rescue check. We will check the home for its fire safety and help improve its safety.

'This is another tragic occurrence we are working very hard to stop happening. It's incredibly frustrating because we're not getting to the people who we can help,' he said.

Crews from Attleborough, East Harling and Wymondham attended the fire in a downstairs room, and firefighters were at the property until nearly 3am yesterday. Residents at a neighbouring attached property were evacuated from their home during the blaze.

Local residents spoke of their shock yesterday following the death of the pensioner, who had lived in Old Buckenham most of her life.

One villager, who declined to be named, said: 'It is very sad news. She was a very independent women and I used to see her walk to the shop. She was due to attend the luncheon club at the village hall yesterday, but she was not feeling well.'

Rev David Hill, rector of the nearby All Saints Church, in Old Buckenham, said: 'She was a long-standing resident and was well known in the village. She was a quite lady and it was a shock to people around and about.'

A Norfolk Police spokesman said the incident was not being treated as suspicious and investigations were continuing.