Fire ravages Peter Dimmock's home

Chris Hill The Norfolk home of legendary BBC broadcaster Peter Dimmock was ravaged by fire yesterday afternoon. Mr Dimmock, the first presenter of sports show Grandstand, moved to Warham, near Wells, 18 months ago.

Chris Hill

The Norfolk home of legendary BBC broadcaster Peter Dimmock was ravaged by fire yesterday afternoon.

Mr Dimmock, the first presenter of sports show Grandstand and a familiar face to millions throughout the 1950s and 1960s, moved to Warham, near Wells, with his wife Christabel 18 months ago.

But the couple returned from walking their dog yesterday to find smoke alarms ringing and a fire in one of the upstairs bedrooms of their home at The White House, on Chapel Street.

Mr Dimmock, 88, said the plumes of smoke prevented him from battling the blaze himself - prompting an emergency call which brought nine fire engines from across the county.

About 70 firefighters who extinguished the flames were also able to salvage some antique furniture from the lower floors by moving it into the front garden.

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And although most of the house was smoke-logged and collapsed roof beams could be seen through charred first-floor windows, fire chiefs said the early call helped them save about two thirds of the property.

Mr Dimmock, a former RAF squadron leader, remained philosophical about the extensive damage last night but was concerned for the impact it would have on his wife and family.

“I was in the war as a pilot, and I just think what is the point of getting overwhelmed by something like this?” he said. “You just have to get over it.

“It is much more concerning to my darling wife because the bedroom which is completely gutted is where we kept all our family photographs. But at least the firemen have saved one end of the house.

“The maddening thing is that if we had not taken the dog for a walk we would have been here when it started. We did have smoke alarms everywhere in the house and we are very fire-conscious. It just all happened so quickly.”

Mr Dimmock said he originally thought the warning sirens were from his burglar alarm.

“I rushed upstairs and I nearly could have put it out but the smoke was too much and I had not got a mask,” he said. “By then there was so much smoke I could not get in the house.

“The fire brigade could not have been here any quicker and they have done the best they could.”

Mr Dimmock was also able to raise a smile about emergency crews' use of his own back-garden pool as a back-up water supply. “I am going to charge the fire brigade for the use of that pool,” he said.

Fakenham station manager John Burrows was among the first on the scene following the call at about 1.30pm. He said although the first floor rooms and roof were extensively damaged, the blaze was under control within 40 minutes.

“When I arrived we could see flames and smoke billowing from the front three upstairs windows,” he said.

“The whole premises is smoke-logged but the damage has been limited by the owner's quick action which prevented the fire spreading. That quick response has allowed us to do our job and save the back half of the house.”

Fire investigation officers were at the house last night to try to establish the cause of the blaze.

Mr Dimmock joined the BBC in 1946 and became a pioneering influence on the corporation's post-war programmes, both as a producer and commentator.

He produced studio and outside broadcasts ranging from documentaries to public events, including the Coronation service from Westminster Abbey in 1953 and the first televised Grand National.

He helped shape the format of the Sports Personality of the Year programme and presented Sportsview every Wednesday night from 1954-64. By the time he left in 1977, he was general manager of BBC Enterprises.