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Man saw fire rip through Yarmouth bungalow on way to buy milk

PUBLISHED: 06:30 20 January 2012

Paul Palmer who helped rescue a disabled man  by making the emergency call as he was walking past and noticed an exploding mobility scooter.


Picture: James Bass

Paul Palmer who helped rescue a disabled man by making the emergency call as he was walking past and noticed an exploding mobility scooter. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

A MAN’S coffee craving helped save a pensioner’s life when a father-of-three who was going to buy milk spotted a house fire.

Investigators are still puzzled as to how a mobility scooter exploded into flames and gutted an elderly man’s bungalow in Midland Close, Great Yarmouth in the early hours of Tuesday last week.

But the man who made the initial 999 call has told of how he saw fire engulf the bungalow and heard a muffled voice shouting “help me, help me”.

Paul Palmer, 52 of North Denes Road, had been walking to the garage in Northgate Street to buy milk for a late night coffee when he saw sparks out of the corner of his eye.

“I leaned back and looked properly then there were little flames,” he explained.

“I got straight on the phone to the fire service then boom - the lot went up.

“The mobility scooter exploded and the flames were licking up towards the doorway.”

He tried to move the scooter but was unable to, then started to frantically bang on people’s doors to get them out to safety.

A young man ran across the road to help, and Mr Palmer gave him a foot up over the garden wall of the bungalow to see if he could get into the back of the property.

“I could hear a muffled voice saying ‘help me, help me’,” he said.

“The young lad tried to go in the back.

“He tried to kick the door in but it wouldn’t shift. The fire brigade turned up and I said ‘I think somebody’s in there’.”

An ambulance attended along with fire crews and they freed an elderly man, named locally as Gerald Moore, from the property.

Mr Palmer said: “You fear the worst, but I saw them come out of the door with the old gentleman and all he was worried about was his asthma pumps. If we hadn’t have run out of milk I don’t know what would have happened.”

The bungalow in Midland Close is sheltered housing looked after by the borough council’s housing service.

Vera Emmerson, 94, lives opposite the bungalow that burnt down. She said: “I don’t sleep very well and I got up at 2am.

“I saw a light and thought ‘morning is up early.’ The whole doorway was ablaze.”

The council confirmed the bungalow’s tenant has been safely rehoused after being taken to the James Paget Hospital as a precautionary measure.

They added the building has been “extensively damaged”. It is understood he had only been living at the address for a matter of weeks.

It is not known if the mobility scooter was on charge when the fire began, if there was an electrical fault or if it was arson.

A spokesman for the fire service said it was the subject of an on-going investigation. But they reiterated that mobility scooters should not be parked by corridors, stairwells, doorways or other places that may hinder an escape route.

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