Investigation launched after thatch fire

AN INVESTIGATION was started last night after more than 50 firefighters were called to a blaze that ripped through a thatched cottage in a Suffolk village.

AN INVESTIGATION was started last night after more than 50 firefighters were called to a blaze that ripped through a thatched cottage in a Suffolk village.

A total of nine crews had to use water from nearby swimming pools to douse the flames at the property, in Main Road, Tuddenham, near Ipswich.

The blaze started around 3pm and when firefighters arrived the roof of the house was completely engulfed and a huge hole had been burnt through the middle.

Last night Phil Embury, divisional officer with Suffolk Fire Service and one of the senior personnel in charge at the scene, urged homeowners with a thatched roof to take extra care over the coming months and ensure their chimneys were in good condition now the colder weather is approaching.

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A total of five crews from Ipswich, one from Woodbridge, one from Needham Market, one from Debenham and another from Holbrook attended yesterday's blaze.

Firefighters were expected to be on site throughout the night and were working hard to salvage personal items from the property.

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Philip Welham, who was one of the first on the scene, said: “I live down in the village and the smoke was so thick I thought someone had a big bonfire going.

“I came up the road to see what was going on and then just saw the thatch well alight. I feel so sorry for the owners because they've just had a lot of work done to the house and now it looks as if it's all gone.”

Dave Gulliford, a builder working at a nearby property, said: “I was just over the road when I noticed some smoke and a few people standing around.

“I asked if anyone knew if there was anyone in the house and when they said no I went round banging on the doors and windows to see if I could see the homeowners or any pets.”

Mr Embury said it was too early to tell what had caused the blaze but an investigation had been launched in conjunction with the police

He said: “When we arrived the fire was very well developed. There are around 50 personnel all working hard to save some of the contents of the building.

“Unfortunately most of the roof is burnt and we are in the process of removing and stripping the thatch.

“We are likely to be here overnight and will carry on damping down and removing as much of the property as we can.

“We have had to use water from the swimming pool at the rear of the house as well as from others down the road.

“Thatch fires are very difficult because the roof is designed to repel water so you can't just squirt water on the top of the roof - you have to get in and underneath.”

Between March 2005 and April this year, firefighters were called to 21 thatch roof fires across the county, compared to just nine in 2003/04.

Mr Embury said he hoped the latest fire was not the start of another busy period as officers had been working hard to educate members of the public on how to reduce risks.

He added: “We had a number of thatch roof fires last winter and I hope it's not a sign of things to come. “We have done a lot of community safety work already this year and held a number of seminars telling people how to avoid fires on premises like these.

“Thatch roof properties obviously present additional risks when compared to traditional buildings and people should ensure their chimneys are swept regularly, that the flues are lined and the thatch kept in good condition.”


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