Fire chief’s feared Knowsley Road blaze would spread to other homes

The aftermath of the fire at two terraced houses in Knowsley Road. Fire fighters damp down hot spots

The aftermath of the fire at two terraced houses in Knowsley Road. Fire fighters damp down hot spots in the roof. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Archant 2013

A fire chief has revealed how he feared a blaze which ripped through two Norwich homes could have spread to four or five other homes in the street.

Richard Herrell, head of community fire protection at Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service also told how the crews' attempts to tackle the blaze in Knowsley Road were initially hampered because of the number of cars parked in the street. And it has emerged that an electric blanket might have caused the fire, prompting a warning from fire chiefs for people to take extra care when using them.

The fire broke out at about 11.40pm on Wednesday night, in the bedroom of a terraced home. It quickly spread to the roof and then spread to the home next door. A man, believed to be in his 50s and the owner of the home where it started, had got out before fire crews arrived and was taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital with smoke inhalation.

Mr Herrell today revealed just how complicated it had been for firefighters to tackle the blaze, with some 50 firefighters involved at its peak. Eight fire crews, from Sprowston, Carrow, Earlham, Wroxham, Hethersett, Wymondham, Long Stratton, Acle and Aylsham attended the fire, while the aerial platform ladder from Earlham was used to attack the fire from above.

Mr Herrell said: 'We initially arrived to respond to reports of a bedroom fire and committed firefighters inside. But we found it had spread to the roof, and that's a significant risk to our firefighters because there is a lot of weight in that which could be very dangerous indeed.

'That meant we had to get the firefighters out and do it all from outside. The fire had jumped into the adjoining property, so it meant we were having to fight the fire from both sides.

'It was made more complex, because that area of Norwich is very condensed and there were a lot of cars parked there.'

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Mr Herrell said the police had done a 'brilliant job' to get the cars moved.

He said: 'The police managed to get about 30 of them moved within a few minutes. That enabled us to be much more effective in what we were doing to put the fire out.'

And Mr Herrell said one of the priorities in fighting a house fire in a terraced street was to stop it from spreading further.

He said: 'One of the challenges we had was in being able to contain it and stop it from spreading. There was a real fear that it would take out four or five houses. The crews did a good job to stop that from happening, but it took a significant amount of time to do that.'

An investigation into the fire began yesterday. A spokesman for the fire service said: 'The exact circumstances are still being investigated, however, we believe the fire might have been started by an electric blanket. If you have an old or worn electric blanket you should dispose of it and you should get your blanket tested properly at least every three years.'

Mr Herrell said it had yet to be established whether there had been a smoke alarm fitted in the home, but urged people to make sure they had alarms in their home and that they regularly checked the batteries. He added: 'We really want to start getting domestic sprinklers put in homes as well, because they will stop fires.'

And Mr Herrell urged people who park in Norwich's narrow terraced streets to think about whether their parking will allow emergency vehicles through.