Family heartache as fire hits new thatched roof at home near Stowmarket
PUBLISHED: 17:53 18 April 2019 | UPDATED: 19:50 18 April 2019
A family fled their Suffolk home after fire broke out in its thatched roof on the final day of a two month £25,000 restoration.
Sue Meek, her heavily-pregnant daughter Sarah-Jane and Sarah-Jane's partner Bradley Benson could only look on in horror as thatchers working on the roof tried to battle the fire at the house in Moats Tye, Combs, near Stowmarket, before the arrival of the fire service.
Firefighters had to rip away a large part of the new thatch to create a fire-break before they could start using water to douse the flames.
Mrs Meek said: “All I could do was stand there and watch thinking 'my house is on fire'.
“It's heartbreaking. Today was the final day of eight weeks of having the thatch done, I was so looking forward to being able to sit down and have a glass of wine and admire the new roof. Now it's all been ripped to pieces.”
Mrs Meek, whose carpenter husband Ray was working 60 miles away in Billericay in Essex at the time and rushed back, said she was in the garden of the house - a former chapel and meeting house, parts of which date back to the 16th century - when she noticed the power to a pond-pump suddenly go off.
“I thought it had tripped at first but then I looked up and saw the thatchers on the roof trying to damp a fire down.
“They said they had no idea what had caused it, just that they had heard a bang,” she said.
“I ran into the house and shouted to Sarah-Jane and Bradley to get the pets and get out, and then I rang the fire brigade.”
The fire started at around 12.50pm and Mrs Meek said although it did not appear to have caused any structural damage there was a lot of mess on the top floor from where the firefighters had tackled the flames from underneath.
But she added: “I'm just so glad no-one has been hurt. The thatchers were brilliant, they could have come off the roof but instead tried to put the fire out until the fire brigade got there, who also did a brilliant job.”
Sarah-Jane said she was due to give birth in two weeks and had been playing music in her bedroom with Bradley when the power went off.
“Mum was down by the pond when she shouted that the thatch was on fire and to get out,” she said.
“We just couldn't believe it. I'm two weeks away from giving birth and supposed to be keeping as calm as possible - we just don't know what's going to happen now.”
Station Commander Mark Walker of Bury St Edmunds fire station was the incident commander.
He said tackling the fire had involved six fire engines plus an aerial platform from Ipswich, an incident command vehicle from Ixworth and a water bowser from Newmarket.
The fire was confined to the roof of the property and firefighters used ladders to gain access, stripping the thatch away to access the roof space below.
They also used thermal imaging cameras to locate the seat of the fire so that they could target it and prevent it from catching the rest of the roof.
“It was a small fire in the thatch confined to an area around the eletrical intake,“ he said.
“We are still investigating the cause and the UK power networks will also investigate.
“The crews were forced to make a break in the thatch by cutting a channel two metres back from the fire, we couldn't extinguish it straight away because of the electrical issue.
“Making a break allowed us to contain the fire until we could isolate the power into the house and we were then able to put it out.”