Family escape cottage blaze

A QUICK-THINKING passer-by ensured a family escaped unscathed from their 16th Century home last night before its thatched roof was engulfed by flames.The family, from Bacton, near Stowmarket, were eating their evening meal when a man knocked at their door and told them the roof was on fire.

A QUICK-THINKING passer-by ensured a family escaped unscathed from their 16th Century home last night before its thatched roof was engulfed by flames.

The family, from Bacton, near Stowmarket, were eating their evening meal when a man knocked at their door and told them the roof was on fire.

Dr Gordon Thomson, his wife Dr Helen, and their two children, 20-year-old Adam and 17-year-old Jennifer, were able to get out of the cottage and call the fire brigade.

Within 20 minutes fire crews were on the scene, as thick black smoke started to bellow from the top of the timbered house in Rectory Road.


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More than 75 firefighters were involved in the operation and they battled through the night to save the property after initially being called to the blaze at 7.20pm.

Fifteen fire engines from around Suffolk and one from Norfolk were scrambled to the cottage, which dates back to about 1530, along with a support vehicle and the Red Cross victim support unit.

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Dr Gordon Thomson said: "We were eating our evening meal and the doorbell rang and this person said 'your roof is on fire'.

"We rushed out and emptied two fire extinguishers onto the blaze and got a ladder out and put a hose on it until the fire engines got here in about 20 minutes. They then took over but it was too late to save the roof.

"We think maybe it was started from the inside, maybe a hole in the liner. The chimney is fully lined with a double layer of stainless steel but it seems like it may have been the cause of it. We won't definitely know until the fire investigation is completed.

"There is a lot of history to it - it used to be three houses and it was made into one later. We hope the structure will be saved. The roof timbers will need replacing and there will be water damage."

By 10pm last night, crews had surrounded the listed house and were painstakingly removing the thatch from the roof, in a bid to contain the fire and stop it breaking through to the house.

They were also rescuing the furniture the family had accumulated from the 23 years they had lived there, as well as the equipment they used for the computer business they run from the home.

Four fire engines originally went to the timber-framed house but another two were quickly dispatched. Soon, the number of crews had increased to 15.

Jon Illingworth, assistant divisional officer with Suffolk Fire Service, said: "The reason why we have gone to having 15 pumps is so that we can get the crews stripping the thatched material. It is arduous work for the crews and while they are doing that they are also fighting the fire.

"The inside of the property does not look damaged by the fire so the fire fighting action we are taking is to salvage the property. We are clearing the rooms of all their belongings and taking them out clean and safe, which is a lot of work for a few people.

"In order to do everything simultaneously we need lots of crews to do it."

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