Hero fireman who saved woman from burning building in Sudbury says: ‘I was just doing my job’
- Credit: Sarah Lucy brown
On-call firefighter Patrick Ince was one of the first on the scene of a devastating blaze which ripped through several historic buildings in Sudbury town centre on Sunday.
Mr Ince, a 42-year-old self-employed upholsterer, of Swanfield, Long Melford, admitted he feared for his life when he was suddenly engulfed in thick, black smoke at the top of the rescue ladder when the Oxfam shop below him exploded.
But he managed to claw the woman, named as Christine Deke, from the third floor to safety. She was taken to hospital and has since been discharged.
It comes after Elioson Deke, the husband of Mrs Deke, praised Mr Ince for saving his wife’s life.
Mr Ince, who has been with the fire service for 23 years, said: “We got to the incident at around 6.30pm. We saw the shop window of the nail shop smoking. We looked up and saw the lady from the third floor of the flat. I said, right, let’s get a nine-metre ladder up, and then I went up the ladder.
“It wasn’t too bad then and there wasn’t too much smoke then. I spoke to the lady and tried to keep her calm, saying ‘I’m going to get you out – I’m not going to leave you, don’t worry’, but she was obviously in hysterics, bless her.
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“She had a wet towel, so I said ‘put that across your face’, and suddenly it just went. Smoke came across us. I said ‘right, just calm down, calm down, we are getting you out, we are getting you out’. She was crying and in hysterics and it was all kicking off downstairs.
“But basically, I got hold of her, grabbed her out of the window, and then I passed her across another ladder to someone else.
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“I went down afterwards and all I was worried about was her, so I went to see her and picked her up, grabbed her hand and took her somewhere else because she was laying on the concrete floor. I said ‘come on, you’re going to sit at a pump’. And then I went off and did my other duties, like fighting the fire.”
When asked if he viewed himself as a hero, he said: “I suppose, but at the end of the day I was only doing my job really. That’s all. In any other situation, someone else would have done it.
“I entered the fire service because I wanted to do work for the community. I enjoy it and they are not all the same call-outs. You see different things.
“The last time we had that situation was years ago. Obviously this time was different as I was on my own.
“I was getting a bit worried when it sort of got worse. When it really, really got bad I thought ‘Oh, this is it. I’m either going to come off this ladder or’… stuff like that.
“But in the spur of the moment you just get on with it and don’t worry. You have got to brave to do it.
I’m proud of my actions and very proud of the actions of the whole fire crew. It will be a day I won’t forget, and it’s good to hear the woman is out of hospital and is doing OK.”
Mark Hardingham, chief fire officer at Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “It was an incredibly challenging incident for all crews involved. Fires of this scale are not a common occurrence but nonetheless the response from the service was excellent.
“We train our firefighters to work in the most difficult of situations and the joint response with other blue light services yesterday evening is testament to the dedication and commitment shown by each and every firefighter and their colleagues from police and ambulance.
“The task now is to work with our colleagues at Suffolk police to investigate the incident and if possible find a cause.”
Matthew Hicks, cabinet member for public protection at Suffolk County Council, said: “I want to offer my thanks for all those involved in tackling the fire yesterday.
“I think I speak for all of Suffolk’s residents when I say the hard work and dedication of our county’s fire and rescue service is second to none. This was a major fire and without the bravery and professionalism of the crews involved the situation had the potential to have been so much worse.”