Devastation as fire destroys three homes

TWO couples have spoken of their devastation after a massive fire tore through a row of picturesque thatched cottages.

Anthony Bond

TWO couples have spoken of their devastation after a massive fire tore through a row of picturesque thatched cottages.

More than 60 firefighters from across Suffolk were called to Hitcham, near Stowmarket, shortly before 6pm on Saturday night.

It is believed the fire started in the roof area of one of three terraced thatched cottages before spreading to those adjoining. Firefighters were hampered in their efforts to prevent the fire from spreading by strong winds.

Those living inside the cottages rushed to safety after villagers saw the flames in the roof and alerted them.

Nick Crowley, 58, has lived with his wife Maureen, 58, in Monrom Cottage for just under two years and was in the process of trying to sell it.

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Speaking outside his home on Saturday night, he said: “I am devastated. It is unbelievable. I was coming down the road on my way home and I saw all these lights and the smoke. I could not believe what I saw.

“The firefighters have been brilliant and got lots of our things out, they have been marvellous, but it has just devastated the inside. I just cannot believe what I am seeing.

“It is great to see that everybody got out safely but it is just a nightmare really. I had it on the market to be sold but obviously it will not be sold now.”

Nick and Tracey Selvey's 150-year-old cottage was also destroyed in the blaze. “Somebody knocked on the door and said the thatch was alight,” said Mrs Selvey, who has lived in the cottage with her husband for four years. “We work hard for a decent life and a nice house and it just goes up in smoke. It is devastating.”

Mr Selvey added: “Everything inside is new, it is incomprehensible really.”

In total 10 fire engines - including some from as far afield as Newmarket and Felixstowe - as well as a number of support vehicles, attended the incident.

Phil Embury, Divisional Officer for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said it was too early to tell whether the three cottages would need to be pulled down.

“There was extensive damage to the properties but at this point it is difficult to say what will happen,” he said. “The main fabric of the three terraced properties remains in place and it will be a decision that the insurance companies have to take.”

He added: “The crews worked extremely hard. The early crews did their best to save as much property as they could and prevent the fire from spreading further. It was very arduous and very unpleasant conditions and they all worked very hard.”

An investigation is now underway into the cause of the blaze.