Blaze tears through thatched house

MORE than 50 firefighters from three counties tackled a blaze that destroyed a two-storey thatch roofed home on the Essex and Suffolk border last night.

MORE than 50 firefighters from three counties tackled a blaze that destroyed a two-storey thatch roofed home on the Essex and Suffolk border last night.

Twelve fire engines were dispatched to the blaze, which is not being treated as suspicious, at a property in Kedington Road in Sturmer, near Haverhill.

Christopher and Silvia Gurteen, who have lived in the house since 1966, said they were “devastated” by the fire, which spread rapidly to the roof and destroyed the first floor.

Mr Gurteen, a businessman in Haverhill, said they were preparing supper for the family when he went to the shed to fetch some more wood for the wood burners. When he returned he saw smoke rising under the thatch by the chimney.


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At first he said he thought he may have been able to tackle the fire himself but it quickly took hold and the fire brigade, who he praised as “absolutely brilliant”, took over.

He said: “We are devastated. We have lost everything. We have been able to salvage the ground floor but it spread so quickly we could not get upstairs. We have lost all our clothes and jewellery and personal effects.”

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Friends and neighbours rallied round to help the couple, who will now be staying with their son.

The fire service initially received a call to the blaze at around 5.45pm and the first three crews, one from Clare and two from Haverhill in Suffolk, rushed to the scene.

Following a call from a Suffolk fire service sub-officer these crews were backed up with one from Thaxted in Essex, two from Saffron Walden in Essex, one from Sible Hedingham in Essex, one from Linton in Cambridgeshire, one from Colchester and a control unit supported by a fire engine from Brentwood in south Essex.

A further two fire engines from Wethersfield in Essex and Wickhambrook in Suffolk were also sent later in the evening.

Initial reports were that half of the large property's thatch roof was involved in the fire and was described as being “well alight”.

Four crews wearing breathing apparatuses were sent into the building to tackle the flames and two main jets as well as two hose reels were used.

However, the fire quickly spread involving another 25% of the roof, with flames spreading to the first floor, destroying around 15% of the storey.

The four breathing apparatus wearers were withdrawn from the building amid concerns over their safety.

By 7.30pm ten fire engines were working on the fire and by 8pm the whole building was consumed by the flames.

Firefighters took water from a nearby fire hydrant and swimming pool to use against the blaze.

The fire was under control by 10pm but five fire engines remained on the scene throughout the night to dampen down the flames.

A spokeswoman for Essex fire service said: “Unfortunately the fire had taken hold of the thatch when it was discovered.

“It was very difficult to deal with when it is that well-established. I would be surprised if you find a lot left of the property because of the extent of the fire.”

A spokesman for Suffolk fire service added that crews had attempted to make a fire break and they then tried to salvage possessions from the building.

No-one needed rescuing from the building and no-one was injured in the blaze.

The Essex fire service said the blaze was not being treated as suspicious but a fire investigation would be launched because of the scale of the incident.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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