Gallery: Update - Courageous neighbours praised in Battisford thatched roof fire drama

Emergency services at the scene of a thatch fire in Battisford. Emergency services at the scene of a thatch fire in Battisford.

Thursday, March 20, 2014
9:43 PM

Courageous neighbours were showered with soot and embers yesterday as they braved a burning building to rescue possessions inside.

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Around 50 firefighters attended Battisford, near Stowmarket, just before 5pm after the detached thatched cottage in Mill Road caught alight.

Area commander John Cook said it was a “deep-seated fire” that was well developed when the first crews arrived.

“They made a strenuous effort to extinguish the fire and pull that thatch off the roof to stop it spreading,” he said.

“Unfortunately it was too far developed and it ripped through all of the thatch and most of the roof.

“It was a deep-seated fire with a strong hold in the thatch and with the wind as it was, despite sterling efforts, there was not a lot we could do.”

Neighbours who helped rescue the homeowners’ possessions from the fire have been praised for their courageous efforts.

“They were absolutely fantastic,” Mr Cook added.

Mark Bloomfield, a 49-year-old removals worker who lives opposite, was one of the community-spirited helpers who managed to save almost all the contents.

“A couple of firefighters said they needed some bods to get the stuff out and about eight to 10 of us offered to help,” he said. “We were in and out and the smoke was billowing around the house.

“We were showered with soot and water - it was quite hair raising.”

Many of the neighbouring residents gathered in the nearby Punch Bowl Inn having been being left without electricity when UK Power Networks were asked to cut the supply.

Graham Card, a 59-year-old insurance consultant, spoke of his pride in the villagers’ response to the situation.

“It must be a reflection of the community spirt in the village that so many people turned out,” he said.

“We will be out there again tomorrow,” added Jonathan Pope, 67, who helped store the possessions out of harm’s way.

Lesley Chisolm said she believed the occupants of the house had just started their wood burner when the fire started.

Ailsa, her 24-year-old daughter had just returned from the gym with her sister Cheryl when they saw the road filled with firefighters.

“We could barely see anything but smoke and flames through the roof,” she said.

Mr Cook said his crews would remain on site until tomorrow morning to keep the fire out and investigate its cause.

At the height of the fire, up to 15 engines were on site along with the command unit from Ixworth, a water carrier from Newmarket and the multi-star - a fire engine with a aerial rescue capabilities - from Bury St Edmunds,

With three thatch fires taking hold in Suffolk over recent weeks, Mr Cook has urged homeowners to be extra cautious.

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