Dalham: Thatched house badly damaged in huge blaze

A CLEAR-up operation is underway today after a fierce blaze tore through a thatched cottage.

Around 70 fire fighters were called after the blaze broke out in the picturesque property in Church Lane, Dalham, near Newmarket at 6.20pm yesterday.

Lucinda Thuilliez, 42, who lived in the cottage with her husband, Steve, 47, and mother-in-law Joan Thuilliez, said the family were lucky to be alive.

“It was so quiet,” Mrs Thuilliez said. “If it had been the middle of the night, we would have been dead.”

The fire engulfed the whole of the thatched roof, while the first floor was also badly affected. It had started in the chimney.

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Thanks to the quick-thinking actions of fire crews, much of the family’s furniture and possessions were salvaged and placed in a temporary shelter in the garden.

“The fire brigade were amazing,” Mrs Thuilliez said. “People say fire crews are great but they were just marvellous.”

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Mrs Thuilliez’s mother-in-law, Joan Thuilliez, first saw smoke drifting past the window while the family were watching television.

When her son, Steve, 47, went out to investigate, he spotted flames licking the chimney near the thatched roof.

“First of all it was just a small fire but thatch goes so quickly,” she added.

The family stayed with friends last night but were today facing the daunting challenge of rebuilding their lives and their home.

“We are all safe, that’s the main thing,” Mrs Thuilliez said. “It’s not Japan.”

Mrs Thuilliez had special praise for the fire teams at the scene, saying they had done a brilliant job dealing with the incident.

Appliances from Newmarket, Wickhambrook, Bury St Edmunds, Mildenhall, Elmswell, Ixworth, Haverhill, Sudbury, Swaffham Bulbeck and Burwell were all called to the scene.

Pat Dacey, incident commander, said: “It is accidental, they were using the woodburner and then saw a fire in the thatch by the chimney stack.

“The problem with thatch is that it is very labour intensive. There is a lot of damage to the house but the house is saved down to the wall panels. We’ve only lost the roof.

“This is really good professional hard work by our firefighters.”

Mrs Thuilliez was handed emergency supplies by Red Cross volunteers Sue Brixey and Tirzah Jones, who travelled to the scene from Ipswich.

Ms Brixey said: “The firefighters deal with the fire – we’re there to help them with their other needs and we will stay with them if they need somewhere or somebody to be with them.”

Firefighters were expected to remain at the scene overnight, with relief crews sent from Ipswich and Clare.

Meanwhile, crews were also called to a chimney fire in Otley, near Ipswich, which started in a woodburning stove.

It began just after 9.30pm last night at an address in Newlands, but was brought under control within about half an hour.

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