Video: Elderly couple and another man forced to flee homes as thatch fire engulfs properties in Norwich Road, Barham

The blaze that engulfed thatched cottages in Barham, which has led to the nearby Norwich Road being closed for several days. The blaze that engulfed thatched cottages in Barham, which has led to the nearby Norwich Road being closed for several days.

Monday, April 14, 2014
6:42 PM

An elderly couple and one other man were forced to flee their homes yesterday afternoon after what began as a thatch fire engulfed two properties.

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Suffolk Fire and Rescue were called to the scene of a pair of semi-detached houses on the Norwich Road in Barham yesterday after reports of a thatch fire.

Smoke from the fire was visible to motorists travelling on the A14.

Group Commander Dave Pedersen said that upon arrival the crews immediately realised it was an “intense fire” and called for back-up; a total of eight fire engines and an aerial ladder platform were involved in quelling the flames.

The damage caused by the blaze is “very extensive”, said Mr Pedersen, and involved the roof and both floors of both properties, resulting in two dormer windows collapsing in to the first floor. The thatched roof is being stripped away.

Last night a neighbour of the property owners said they were “devastated” by what had happened and the Salvation Army have attended the scene to help.

Fire crews have tried to salvage as much of the properties and the owners’ possessions as possible.

Mr Pedersen said: “It’s a pair of semis and the fire spread from the roof, which is a combined roof, down on to the first floor of both properties.

“We will undertake a full investigation when we’re able to. We’ll be interviewing the occupiers and we’ll also be looking to carry out our own investigation into what the cause was.”

Although there were no injuries, an ambulance was called as a precaution to administer a health check on the elderly couple due to the level of smoke.

The properties sit in an idyllic country setting and neighbours in the village of Barham who were out walking their dogs said they had only realised what happened when a police officer stopped them due to the road closure.

One neighbour who lives directly adjacent to the properties said workers at a nearby sawmill had spotted the flames on the thatch roof.

David Westgate said the elderly couple who had lived in one of the properties for roughly 15 years were “devastated”.

“I was indoors and I thought I could smell smoke and the fire crews weren’t here then,” he said.

“They’re lovely people, all of them. I think the husband is about 81, and I think his wife is about 77, so you don’t need that at this time of life.”

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