Norwich fire drama hero rescues family of four

David BaleA quick-thinking neighbour who stood on top of a wheelie bin to rescue two young children from a burning Norwich house was today hailed a lifesaver by firefighters.David Bale

A quick-thinking neighbour who stood on top of a wheelie bin to rescue two young children from a burning house was today hailed a lifesaver by firefighters.

A mother and her three children were trapped in an upstairs room at their house in Sprowston in the early hours of Thursday.

But after hearing screaming coming from the building, neighbour Jeremy Lofts rushed outside and cleverly put a wheelie bin up against the house to stand on.

He then asked the mother to pass the two children down to him and they were rescued before fire-fighters arrived a few seconds later and used a ladder to get the mother and the oldest child.

Mr Lofts, a 36-year-old father of two, today refused to take sole credit for his bravery, and said: 'If anyone deserves the accolades it was the fire service which arrived very quickly.

'But I think what was good to come out of was that people in the neighbourhood came together, and that's quite a nice message. Two women neighbours also came out and comforted the children.'

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He said he heard screams coming from the house and they went out to help 'as anyone would'.

'We did not have a ladder and we thought what could we use, and, as all the wheelie bins were due to be collected that day and were neatly lined up outside, we put them against the house to climb up on. The woman's family did very well to keep it together and, as I said, the fire service did what they do.'

Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service group manager Richard Herrell praised Mr Lofts, the family, and his team for saving four people's lives.

He said: 'The conduct of the neighbour and the oldest son was outstanding. Everyone involved acted with outstanding conduct and as a result four lives were saved.'

His views were echoed by Simon Mason, who was the fire service's incident commander on the night, who said: 'I've got nothing but admiration for what Jeremy did.'

The mother and her children, who did not wish to talk or be named, were taken to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation, but were all later released.

Two fire crews from Sprowston and Norwich had attended the house in Windsor Park Gardens at about 12.30am on Thursday.

Mr Herrell said: 'Our control operator provided fire survival advice to the people who were trapped and we believe it saved their lives.

'The woman was in a lot of distress but the control operator managed to keep her calm and make sure the children were in one room where they could be easily reached and awaiting the fire brigade.

'Mum was clearly distressed as you would be but the oldest son took charge and carried out advice. The whole team effort was vital to helping them.'

He said the blaze was currently under investigation, and added that there was very serious smoke damage to the building and it was the smoke that trapped the inhabitants in the room.

'The downstairs was filled with thick, black, acrid, toxic smoke,' he said. 'They went into a room at the front of the building - if you get people to the front of the building it makes it much easier for the fire service to find them.

'Two pieces of advice we want to stress: firstly, they had a working smoke detector which made a massive difference, and secondly, you should try to get to a point where the fire brigade can get you out.'

Do you know someone who deserves to be hailed a hero? Ring reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email