Family lose 'lifeline' van in fire
- Credit: Ella Wilkinson
A family has been left devastated after a "lifeline" van used to give their disabled son more freedom was gutted by fire outside their home.
Three members of the family, a carer and their dog had been inside the property in Foxburrow Road, Sprowston, on Wednesday morning when they saw flames outside.
The family's eight-seater van was destroyed by the blaze with nearby fencing catching fire. Damage was also caused to the exterior of the next-door property.
The family was bought the van three years ago to support Richard Poole, 38, who is severely disabled and requires 24/seven care.
His mum Mandy Poole was shopping with her daughter Siobhan when she received a call from her family that the van was on fire and said she was grateful they did not leave any oxygen tanks inside after the family's last day trip.
The 58-year-old said: "I parked up and ran up here and they wouldn't let me and Siobhan in. They had the hose and there were two fire engines. We had to wait, I could see them [the family] but I couldn't get to them. We had to wait until they gave us the all clear."
She added the fire had caused superficial damage to the property.
Kevin Smibert who was inside the property with members of his family including his brothers Ryan Jansen, Richard and his carer Bianca, and Gizmo the dog.
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He said: "I walked down the stairs and saw orange lights out of the window."
The family said the van was a lifeline to Richard who suffered an Arnold Chiari malformation more than a decade ago. The condition causes the lower part of his brain to push down into the spinal canal.
Despite surgery to treat the condition, Richard's respiratory system was affected, leaving him unable to walk or talk.
Ms Poole said: "He was locked down before Boris announced the first lockdown. It's only really been now that he could come out.
"We took him out on Sunday for a trip to Great Yarmouth."
She added: "It's stopped his life again to go out. We can trundle him around here but we cannot take him out, we have nothing now."
Ms Poole's sister Michelle Coman and her daughter Misha "came as fast as they could".
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service received a call at 11.21am and sent two crews from Carrow and Sprowston.