A Thetford pensioner, who battled to save lives during a care home fire by putting out flames with his bare hands, has received an award from Norfolk Fire Service.
Michael Bowley, 70, was driving past the Woodlands Care Home, in Elm Road, with daughter-in-law Kirsty Barrett when they spotted flames in one of the windows.
Despite obvious danger they immediately went inside to alert staff and help evacuate the residents, one of whom Kirsty had to help out of the bath.
Michael located the room where the fire was and, finding it empty, decided to tackle the blaze with the only tools he could find – his hands and feet.
Thanks to the pair’s efforts, on January 15 last year at around 6.40pm, the eight residents, four staff and the building itself were saved.
On Wednesday he was presented with the Society for the Protection of Life from Fire Award at Thetford Fire Station.
Michael said: “I wouldn’t call myself anything special, but getting the award was a lovely thing to happen to me. It was a very good day.
“On the night I just went in and put the fire out.
“You don’t think of the pain, you just do what you can do. Everyone got out all right and that was the main thing.
“Afterwards I got a lovely letter from a relative of someone at the care home, and that was worth its weight in gold.”
Nigel Williams, Norfolk’s chief fire officer, said it had been ‘a privilege’ to meet the modest hero.
“Doing something when it needed to be done very quickly, with no experience or equipment, to save other people’s lives with no concern for his own, was a very courageous thing to do,” he said.
“The action alone prevented a serious tragedy unfolding.
“We probably would have been dealing with a more involed fire which could have caused more damage, but Michael took the steps he did and that gave us more time to act.
“For him and his family, it is nice recognition for someone in the community who stepped up to the plate when things went wrong.
“He can be rightly proud of what he has done to save others’ lives.”