Unconscious students were rescued from smoke-filled Earlham home with minutes to spare

Neighbours came to the rescue of two unconscious students yesterday morning with just minutes to spare when a fire broke out in their Earlham home.

Firefighters arrived shortly before 7am to the house on Hanbury Close off Earlham Road, after being alerted by neighbours.

One neighbour had tried to break into the house to rescue the students who slept as their home became engulfed by smoke, but could not get in.

The 50-year-old, who did not want to be named, saw the smoke coming from the house as he made his way home from a night out.

'I got to the end of my close and I could smell burning plastic,' he said. 'I alerted the neighbours and tried to kick the door down and make as much noise as possible. I did what anyone else would.'

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He was told later that the boys were saved with just minutes to spare.

The first team of firefighters broke down the front door and were followed by a second crew who put the fire out.

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They found the two men, both in their mid-twenties, unconscious downstairs.

One was on a settee and the other in his bed. They were carried out and put in an ambulance.

Yesterday one of the men told said: 'I woke up unconscious in the ambulance.'

It is thought the blaze began in a cooker in the home's kitchen.

Station manager at Carrow Phil Berry was on the scene 20 minutes after the first crews.

He said: 'It looks like an accidental fire in the kitchen which could have had very tragic consequences.'

The fire investigator thanked the neighbours for their help.

Fifteen firefighters from Earlham, Carrow and Sprowston spent nearly an hour tackling the blaze.

The students arrived back at their burnt out home from hospital dazed and confused but uninjured at around 11am yesterday.

Firefighters said that the main damage was in the kitchen, but that there was some smoke damage throughout the home.

The windows were blackened by the blaze but the fire had not spread to neighbours' homes.

Frank Betts, 66, who lives opposite the students, said: 'I was woken by a fire alarm going off. There was lots of smoke coming out of the window.'

The men live in the semi-detached home with three other people, but they were the only two in yesterday morning.

•The blaze yesterday morning comes just weeks after the fire service launched a campaign to warn about the dangers of kitchen fires.

Stuart Horth, head of community safety for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said the service was called to lots of kitchen fires over the festive period.

He advised people to keep their oven and grills clean and install a smoke detector.

Over the last year there have been 427 accidental fires in Norfolk homes and over 60pc of these began in the kitchen.

•For more safety advice www.norfolkfireservice.gov.uk.

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