Woman, 85, says she is lucky to be alive after arsonist strikes at Norwich flat
- Credit: Archant
An 85-year-old woman has told how she thinks she heard an arsonist running down stairs just hours before a blaze completely destroyed a Norwich flat.
Firefighters said it was 'very lucky' no-one was seriously injured or killed following a fire which ripped through the flat in Penn Grove, off Aylsham Road, in the early hours of Saturday, September 9.
Police have revealed the blaze is now being treated as arson following an investigation by Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service which found the cause of the fire was 'inconclusive'.
Maureen Harl, 85, lives in the flat underneath and was one of those who had to be evacuated while fire crews from Sprowston, Carrow and Earlham fought the flames.
The flat was empty at the time of the fire but Mrs Harl said she heard 'someone going down the stairs' at about midnight.
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The former Norfolk Shoe Factory worker said although she later smelt smoke she did not see anything and fell back to sleep, before being woken up when 'all hell broke loose' as neighbours screamed at her to get out.
She said: 'I heard someone going down the stairs and thought it was rather late.
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'I went off to sleep but got woken up at 2am. I smelt smoke and I looked out of the window but couldn't seen anything.' She took another look out of the window at about 3am after the smell of smoke got stronger, but again could not see anything.
'And then at 5.30am all hell broke loose and they (neighbours) were shouting at me to get out of the flat.
'They were pounding at the door shouting: 'Maureen get out.'
'When I got out I thought: 'Oh my God.' I've never seen anything like it.
'I thought there was going to be an explosion there and then.'
Mrs Harl said she was 'devastated' to find out it was a suspected arson.
She said: 'Why would they put other people's lives at risk? I think its terrible. There could've been someone in there.'
Mrs Harl added: 'I feel lucky to still be here now - I count myself very, very lucky to be truthful.'
A police spokesman said the investigation was ongoing but no arrests have yet been made.
Anyone with information about the fire should call Norwich CID on 101.