Halstead: Thatched cottage blaze was started ‘accidentally’

A BLAZE which engulfed the roof of a thatched cottage was started accidentally, firefighters have said.

Fifty firefighters from two counties last night battled to save a thatched cottage and rescue possessions after a major fire tore through its roof.

At the height of the blaze three-quarters of the roof of the cottage in Church Street, Gestingthorpe, near Halstead, was on fire.

A spokesman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said: “No further investigation of the fire is being carried out and it has been recorded as an accident.

“The most likely cause of the fire was a spark from the flu of a wood burner which set alight to the thatched roof.”

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The first firefighters on the scene at 6.30pm found that half of the roof was alight on arrival. Initially four appliances were sent, but on arrival further assistance was required to help tackle the flames and for extra manpower.

Two people, thought to be the couple who owned the cottage, were in the property when the fire started. The alarm was raised by a passer-by.

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Last night, the couple were too upset to talk about the fire. Ray Skinner, the fire officer in charge, said internally 5% of the roof was alight.

He said firefighters had managed to contain the fire to the roof.

Mr Skinner said firefighters had been able to salvage all the possessions from the cottage. “We’ve done a good a job. The crews have been working extremely hard and there has been good co-operation between Essex and Suffolk firecrews.”

Crews from Sible Hedingham, Halstead, Wethersfield, Brentwood, Braintree and four crews from Suffolk all attempted to bring the incident under control.

They pitched five ladders against the property and used two hose reels to tackle the incident.

The fire was under control by 9.41pm.

Neighbour Elizabeth Prior, 64, who helped in the salvage operation, said: “I literally looked out of my bedroom window opposite and saw the flames coming out of the chimney there.”

Mrs Prior said the owners were very lucky, adding: “it is just a shame it went up so quickly.’

Neighbours and local residents helped firefighters and Gestingthorpe Village Hall was opened to provide refreshments.

Part of Church Street from the village hall to the main road between Sudbury and Hedingham was closed while firefighters tackled the blaze.

An investigation has been launched into the cause of the blaze.

Fire crews left the scene at 12.21am.

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