Disabled war veteran drags himself to safety from burning Fenland bungalow
A DISABLED war veteran who asked for improvements to help him move around his Fenland home was this week forced to drag himself from his burning bungalow.
Lee Norris, 50, who had his leg amputated last year, escaped a blaze at his Parson Drove home by hopping out of the front door - dragging his wheelchair behind him.
His �3,000 mobility scooter, which was parked outside the back door, was engulfed in the flames.
Mr Norris, a former member of the Armoured Corps, Royal Lancers, said he had repeatedly asked Roddons Housing Association to adapt his bungalow, to make it easier for him to move around.
He said: “I have been saying to Roddons for five months, ‘What if there’s a fire? How will I get out?’”
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“If I didn’t have my wits about me I would have been a statistic by now. If it was an elderly person they would have died. It’s as simple as that.”
Fire crews had found Mr Norris sitting in a wheelchair in his front garden after they were called to the bungalow, in Main Road, Parson Drove, at 8am on Wednesday.
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Mr Norris said he struggled to move anywhere quickly in his home as it was not sufficiently adapted to help him cope with his disability.
He claimed that, as well as having no usuable ramps, footpaths outside were too narrow for a wheelchair and indoor surfaces were too high for him to reach.
The only aid Roddons did provide was a large fold-up aluminium ramp, which Mr Norris says is unusable because he cannot lift it.
When he lodged his concerns with the housing association, they said he would have to be placed on a waiting list for his home to be adapted.
“The house is completely unadapted for me,” he said. “They have completely let me down, in every respect.
“They are on about moving me now but I don’t want to. I’m happy here. I just wanted the house adapted.”
A spokesman for Roddons said the safety of residents was their top priority and that Mr Norris had been provided with temporary accommodation nearby.
They said: “Mr Norris bid for, and moved into, the wheelchair adapted bungalow in May 2010 through the choice based lettings system.
“He was very clearly advised as to the position regarding disabled adaptations - both in regard to adaptations not being able to be carried out to the property before he moved in and no definite timescale able to be given in advance of a detailed assessment of his needs once the tenancy commenced.
“We have been in continuous dialogue with Mr Norris and other agencies as to how best to meet his needs. At no time have there been any concerns for his safety at the property, and the ramp installation carried out is a standard one which complies with all health and safety standards and which, once installed, did not need to be lifted.”
The blaze, confirmed as accidental, had started in the kitchen at the back of the property. It spread quickly, burning a gaping hole in the roof and leaving the bungalow uninhabitable.
The ex-serviceman, who lives alone with his dog, said he was covered in glass when an explosion caused panes in the back door to shatter.
“I got out with great difficulty and called the fire service,” he said. “I said to the girl on the phone, if I don’t get out of here soon I’m not going to get out at all.”
The Roddons spokesman added: “We will be assisting the police and fire brigade in their investigations as to the cause of this fire, and working with Mr. Norris in regard to his future housing needs.”