A BUSINESSMAN and inventor who was about to market a device to help householders escape from fire has described how devastated he is that his showroom has been burnt to the ground. Norman Edge, owner of Countrywide Interiors in Tower Square Huntingdon, s

Businessman and inventor Norman Edge

A BUSINESSMAN and inventor who was about to market a device to help householders escape from fire has described how devastated he is that his showroom has been burnt to the ground.

Norman Edge, owner of Countrywide Interiors in Tower Square Huntingdon, said: "There's not a word that would even qualify to describe how I feel. We were just about to launch five new products."

Sixty firefighters fought the blaze in the early hours of Monday morning at the premises just off St Peter's Road. Crews from Kimbolton, Papworth, St Neots, St Ives, Sawtry and Huntingdon were called just after three in the morning. The fire is being treated as suspicious.

Mr Edge told The Hunts Post: "It was definitely deliberate - the back door was open - they took what they wanted and on the way out they dropped a match. There is no doubt that it is arson. I left the shop at 3.30pm on Sunday.

A demonstration of his device to help householders to escape from a fire

The fire ripped through the single storey industrial unit containing furniture, bedding, mattresses and carpets.

The premises were completely destroyed.

Crews tackled the fire from the front and the rear of the building using five jets, four breathing apparatus and one turntable ladder. The incident spread to a small section of the roof of a second unit, but firefighters managed to stop it from spreading any further. After two and a half hours, at around 5.30am, the operation was scaled down to four fire engines and one pump.

One of Mr Edge's inventions was his Survival Chest - a blanket box containing a flexible, throw-down ladder that hooks onto a window sill and reaches down four storeys. The box has zip pouches to contain vital documents and a sling in which to carry a baby.

Another invention is his Football Board - a laminated picture, 32 inches wide and 17 inches deep of a football ground with Velcro patches on it so fans can attach pictures of their team. As the players or the kit changes, the figures can be replaced. Mr Edge said: "I have had interest from every football club in the country - the idea is that they send me pictures of their ground or stadium and I send them back the finished product to sell in their shops."

He said there had been interest from Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Aston Villa.

"We were also about to contact rugby clubs, swimming clubs, tennis and cricket - now all that has literally gone up in smoke."

Another of Mr Edge's devices is a portable reclining headboard, for a double or single bed, with retractable arms.

'It is free-standing and can be moved from bed to bed - we have had interest from hospitals in the third world.'

His other two devices are a metal canopy with drapes to turn beds into a semi-"four-poster" and a bed-extension for tall people.

"If you are over 6' 3" tall you have difficulty lying down in bed without your feet off the end. My invention means you can extend the bed to 7' 6" without having to change the mattress or the sheets."

Mr Edge said he could not explain precisely how the device worked because of commercial confidentiality.

The 'Sombrero Canopy' was romantic he said.

Mr Edge was divorced last year, aged 74. He met his new partner, Joan dancing rock and roll on New Year's Eve.

He has no plans to retire.

'Every time I try to something happens,' he said.

'We're not down, we're not out. Within the next two months, we will re-launch and do everything we were going to do before the fire.'

* A fireservice spokesman said the investigation into the cause of the fire was 'on-going'.