Blaze rips through thatched cottage

A COUPLE who spent months renovating their thatched cottage have been left devastated after the building was destroyed by fire.Doctor Anthony Gunstone and his wife, Yasmin, were at home with their two young children when their chimney caught fire at around 2pm yesterday.

A COUPLE who spent months renovating their thatched cottage have been left devastated after the building was destroyed by fire.

Doctor Anthony Gunstone and his wife, Yasmin, were at home with their two young children when their chimney caught fire at around 2pm yesterday.

More than 50 firefighters battled to extinguish the flames, which caught hold of the thatch roof and began to spread to the rest of the house “within seconds”.

Family friend Phil Edwards, who was standing in the garden with Dr Gunstone when the fire started, described feeling helpless as the family tried to salvage what possessions they could from the burning building in The Street, Lidgate.


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“We were standing outside the house when I happened to look up and noticed flames coming out of the chimney,” he said.

“It was very frightening, and I could not believe how quickly the fire took hold. We rang the fire brigade and tried to put the flames out ourselves using a hose, but the fire was just too big and there was nothing we could do.”

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Eight fire crews, as well as the turntable ladder from Bury St Edmunds, a mobile water carrier and an operational support unit were called to the scene, and began working to remove the blazing thatch from the roof in order to gain access to the building.

“We managed to get most of the furniture out, and no one was hurt which is the most important thing - even their two cats managed to escape,” said Mr Edwards, from Soham.

“Anthony and Yasmin only moved into the cottage about a year ago, and finished the renovation work, which included a new bathroom, kitchen, flooring, just a few weeks ago.

“They are totally devastated by what has happened and I just don't know what they are going to do now.”

Divisional Officer Paul Collins, of the Suffolk fire service, said: “This was a large fire, but one of the biggest problems with thatch fires is getting access from inside the building.

“The structure becomes very unstable, so the first priority is removing the thatch, but it is hard work and can be very dangerous.

“Unfortunately most thatched cottages are old, and are not structurally as good as they could be.

“People with thatched roofs need to be especially careful at this time of year because of open log fires, and make sure they have their chimney swept regularly, because there is nothing more distressing than watching your property burnt down.”

An investigation has been launched to establish the cause of the fire, but it is not thought to be suspicious.

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