Northampton Army Cadet's cool response to arson attack at his home

Matt earned the praise of his neighbours and family when he alerted other houses to the danger.
Matt earned the praise of his neighbours and family when he alerted other houses to the danger.

A 16-year-old Northampton lad has earned the praise of his family and neighbours for his quick thinking during an arson attack on his home.

Matt Thornton was asleep in his room in when his garden burst into flame in an incident in Westbury Close, Duston, on November 30.

He knew his family and neighbours were in danger. What's more, he soon realised the fire could spread and reach a set of gas cylinders on the porch.

But Matt owes how he handled the night's dramatic turn of events to his Army cadets training and took action.

The attack was one of a spate of arson attacks that have gripped Matt's neighbourhood on Mendip Road in December, where seven similar incidents were reported in November and December.

Matt was asleep when the fire started at around 1.30am in the morning.

He said: "Suddenly my room was bright orange. I threw back the curtains and felt the heat of the flames in the garden.

"I think I took a few seconds just to collect myself. Then I knew I had to keep everyone and everything safe."

Matt, who is a cadet corporal with the Army Cadets, ran into the hallway and found his mum, Jeanette, coming out of the bathroom. He told her to get out front and call 999.

Jeanette said: "He was amazing on that night. He took charge of everything. I could barely even call 999, I was a bit of a nervous wreck."

It was then Matt remembered the gas cylinders for the barbeque on the back porch, where the fire was in danger of spreading any moment.

Matt said: "There was nothing I could do for a moment. When the fire brigade came I told them about the cylinders and showed them out back.

"The fire had spread to three of our neighbours' gardens. I ran to each other their houses to get people out and make sure they were safe."

when the fire was extinguished, the back gardens of Matt and his neighbours were in ruins. Fir trees, sheds, fences and conservatories were all destroyed, while nearby windows had cracked in the heat. But there were no casualties.

Matt, who is applying to the Royal Marines next year, said: "To be honest, I wasn't thinking of anything. Cadets teaches you how to handle stress. But I didn't sleep much that night. I had exams in school the next day too."

Matt's dad Bob, 54, was on business 3,500 miles away at the time in Dubai, and heard about the evening over the phone.

Bob said: "We're full of praise for Matt. He stood up to the plate and took charge."

A 31-year-old man was arrested on December 8 in connection with the Duston arson attacks but was released under investigation.