A body has now been recovered from the scene of the fire in Penrith, believed to be that of the 73-year-old male occupant of the flat where the fire originated.
Police were called at 9:47am yesterday (12th November) to a serious fire at a flat in Lonsdale Court, Pategill, Penrith.
The adjoining flats to the fire, sheltered accommodation for older people (31 residents in total), were evacuated. 27 of those from the sheltered accommodation were relocated to Penrith Leisure Centre. They have now been found suitable accommodation in various other premises. They were unharmed by the fire.
This afternoon the site was made sufficiently secure to allow a search to take place, and recover the body. Although confirmation is not possible until formal identification has taken place, it is strongly believed the body is that of the 73 year old man who occupied the flat (previously thought to be 75 years old). Officers are in contact with his next of kin.
Inspector Andy Hanson said: “This has been a distressing incident for all involved, and sadly we are now able to confirm that one person died in the fire. We are now working hard to secure the building to allow the other residents to return to their flats – this is expected to take a considerable amount of time.
“I would like to reiterate our thanks from yesterday to the local community. We have been so impressed and grateful for the way everyone has come together and donated supplies and help for the residents affected by the fire. It is a testament to the community spirit and kindness of people living in Penrith.”
Forensic investigators for Cumbria Police and Fire and Rescue will investigate the cause of the fire, which at present is unknown.
Making the building secure enough for residents to return could take several weeks or months – exact timescale is not known at this time.
Eden District Council’s Leader, Councillor Kevin Beaty said: “At 10:30am on Saturday 12 November 2016, Eden District Council responded to a request from the Emergency Services to open a Reception Centre at Penrith Leisure Centre in order to temporarily provide shelter for people being evacuated from the fire at Lonsdale Court in Penrith.
“Council officers worked with the authority’s Leisure Services Contractor GLL, to quickly make space available in accordance with the Council’s emergency plan.
“Twenty-seven elderly people were cared for by a variety of agencies at the Leisure Centre during Saturday until they could be found other suitable accommodation in various other premises.
“I would like to praise the GLL staff who were on duty on Saturday under the supervision of Centre Manager Ann Rylands. Many of the staff were young and coped admirably with the circumstances as they unfolded before them. All the public services worked well together to meet the needs of the people affected by the fire, including Eden Housing Association who are continuing to support those affected.
“The Council would like to thank the members of the public and businesses locally who rallied around to provide assistance on Saturday by generously giving their time, goods or services to support these elderly people. This typifies the strength of community spirit in Eden District.”