Businessman to rebuild fire-ravaged home

A LEADING Suffolk businessman preparing to rebuild his fire-ravaged dream home says the blaze has given him a new perspective on life.Christopher Gurteen, who together with his wife Silvia was left with only the clothes he was wearing when the thatch on the couple's 300-year-old home caught alight, last night told the EADT the drama could have had much more serious consequences.

A LEADING Suffolk businessman preparing to rebuild his fire-ravaged dream home says the blaze has given him a new perspective on life.

Christopher Gurteen, who together with his wife Silvia was left with only the clothes he was wearing when the thatch on the couple's 300-year-old home caught alight, last night told the EADT the drama could have had much more serious consequences.

The roof and first floor of the managing director's home in Sturmer, near Haverhill, were severely damaged by the blaze on December 29, which saw 10 fire crews from Essex and Suffolk drain an outside swimming pool in a three-hour battle with the flames.

But, despite losing the cottage which has served as his family home since 1966, Mr Gurteen last night vowed to rebuild - and said he felt lucky he had lost nothing more than possessions.


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“One thing which comes through is how many people are behind you and how wonderful your friends are - they have been so kind and helpful,” said Mr Gurteen, the managing director of Gurteen and Sons Ltd, a large clothing manufacturing company.

“I suppose you really get involved in the small details of life and when something like this happens you get to see the big picture and appreciate the things that really matter, like having each other.

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“If the fire had been later we would have had the grandchildren upstairs. It could have been terrible - they could have been killed.”

However, in the aftermath of the fire Mr Gurteen, has been contacted by old friends and people who have gone through similar experiences who read his tale in the EADT.

“I never realised how widely the EADT was read - I've had letters and phone calls from far and wide,” he said.

“One was from an old school friend from 50 years ago who saw our story on EADT online and emailed from Australia to commiserate with us. We have arranged to meet when he is in the country.

“I've had some fantastic letters from people we don't even know expressing their sympathy. One person even sent us the article from the EADT when his house burnt down.”

Mr Gurteen said he and his wife would be looking to the future now the full horror of what happened to them has sunk in.

“It is horrific. It is a really traumatic thing to have to look for belongings amongst the remains,” he added.

“In the mean time we have managed to rent a furnished house in Thurlow. It is very nice and we have been lucky. My wife is doing fine but she is desperately upset as we both loved our home.

“Monday night was the first night we spent in the new house, which is very nice and we are very grateful, but what has happened and how awful it was is only now sinking in.”

Mr Gurteen praised firefighters for their prompt actions and the help they gave moving furniture away from the blaze.

A spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said they were not treating the fire as suspicious after initial investigations had been carried out.

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