Two youths held in home blaze probe

Two teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of setting fire to a Norfolk residential home where 30 elderly residents, including several aged over 100, were rescued.

Two teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of setting fire to a Norfolk residential home where 30 elderly residents, including several aged over 100, were rescued.

A police spokesman said two 18-year-old men were arrested this afternoon and taken to Yarmouth and North Walsham police stations for questioning.

Fifteen police officers joined forces with firefighters and paramedics to lift residents to safety from windows, as smoke spread through the Old Rectory Residential Home, in Norwich Road, Acle.

In all, 33 residents were evacuated, with seven needing hospital treatment for smoke inhalation following the blaze late last night.

Chief Inspector Stu Offord, of Norfolk police said: “Staff at the home, emergency services and volunteers did a magnificent job in evacuating and looking after the residents.”

The fire broke out just before 11pm and fire crews from Acle, Yarmouth, Norwich, Martham and Wymondham were sent to the scene.

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The privately-run home's evacuation procedures also led to the police being alerted and regular officers, police community support officers and members of the special constabulary turned out.

Police spokesman Jonathan Smith said the decision to evacuate residents through windows was taken because smoke was spreading through the main exit area of the building.

“The first officer who turned up quickly realised the seriousness of the situation so got additional resources in and started evacuating people through windows,” he added.

“It was all hands to the pump to get people out as quickly as possible. Smoke is a killer and speed was of the essence.”

Three of the residents taken to hospital were kept in overnight, but their conditions were not thought to be life-threatening.

The other evacuees were taken to the nearby St Edmund's church hall, where they were looked after by the Red Cross and local residents until social services officials made alternative arrangements.

Alex Fraser, Operations Director for East Anglia at the British Red Cross said: “The volunteers were on hand until the early hours, working with the emergency services, helping the elderly residents to safety and offering emotional support to those affected at this difficult time.”

Elderly residents, whose ages ranged from mid 70s to 102, were taken in by relatives or taken to other residential homes as investigations into the cause of the blaze begun.

The fire was contained to a small area that resulted in smoke damage to other parts of the premises and residents were not expected to return to the home last night.

Officers from Norfolk Police and Norfolk Fire Service investigation teams were yesterday carrying out an examination to establish the cause, although the results were not expected until today at the earliest.

A spokesman for the Old Rectory Residential Home declined to comment.

Anyone with information about the fire should contact Det Chief Insp Steve Strong on 0845 4564567.

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