December 6 2013 Latest news:
By MARK TWEEDIE
Sunday, December 30, 2012
The body of an elderly woman has been found in the fire-ravaged remains of a Norfolk house, it was confirmed this evening.
Firefighters were called just after 7am today to the property, a converted former chapel built of the distinctive local carrstone at Holly Hill, Sedgeford, near Heacham.
The blaze spread quickly through the two-storey property, at the junction of the main B1454 Docking to Heacham road with Snettisham Road, leaving it a burnt-out shell and threatening to put the building in jeopardy of collapse.
That danger hampered efforts by Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service experts to establish whether anyone was inside or was away at the time that the blaze broke out.
They spent several hours at the scene trying to account for the occupant or anyone else who may have been at the house.
This evening, Norfolk police issued a statement confirming that the body of an elderly woman had been found.
It added: “Investigations are ongoing to establish the cause of the fire which, at this time, remains unexplained. A seal remains in place on the property as enquiries between the fire service and police continue.
“Next of kin have been informed, formal identification of the body is still to take place, and the coroner will be informed in due course.”
Some 40 firefighters were involved in tackling the blaze – which was described by one neighbour as being “vicious”. The emergency operation involved drawing water from the Heacham River that runs through Sedgeford because of the need for extra supplies.
Station manager Tim Edwards, based at King’s Lynn, said crews from Sandringham, Heacham and Hunstanton were among the first to arrive. He added: “It was clear we were faced with a very severe fire at that point.”
He said the first floor of the property collapsed shortly after those crews had arrived and this was followed later by the building’s roof.
As timbers still smouldered several hours after the fire was brought under control, experts from the Dereham-based USAR (Urban Search and Rescue unit) used their specialist training to try to trace anyone who might still be inside the ruined home. A search and rescue dog was also deployed at the property.
Other fire crews from Massingham, Fakenham and Lynn were drafted in to assist during the height of the blaze.
Norfolk Constabulary investigators were still at the house well into the afternoon. Snettisham Road was closed to traffic outside the house for much of the day.
As the search for the home’s occupant had begun, the East of England Ambulance Service sent an ambulance crew and a clinical manager, who remained at the scene for some three hours before being stood down.
An officer from the service’s Hazardous Area Response Team was on standby for a further hour-and-a-half.