Langham cottage fire leaves family ‘devastated’

The thatched house in Langham which was badly damaged by a fire.

The thatched house in Langham which was badly damaged by a fire. - Credit: Archant

A devastated family on the Suffolk/Essex border believe they will not be able to return home for a year after a fire ripped through their thatched cottage on Friday night.

Thirteen fire engines were called to the blaze at Chris and Paul Elliott’s detached property in School Road, Langham, at around 7pm.

Around a quarter of the thatched roof was engulfed in flames as firefighters from both counties battled the blaze before it was extinguished shortly after 2am.

The last of the fire crews left at around 6am on Saturday.

Mr and Mrs Elliott live in the property with their three children, son Samuel, 18, and daughters Alice, 14, and Grace, 12. They had just completed a 12-year project renovating the house.

Mr Elliott noticed the fire when he was called in for dinner, after walking down the garden after working in the barn, and raised the alarm.

Mrs Elliott said: “It went up quite quickly. The fire service were here within 15 minutes. They were brilliant.

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“We must have had at least 60 firemen here. They did what they could. We are devastated. The insurance company believe we will be out of our home for a year.”

Crews from Colchester, Manningtree, Wivenhoe, Halstead, Hadleigh, Nayland, West Mersea, Coggeshall, Basildon, Weeley and Brightlingsea attended the incident.

The Red Cross also were at the scene, making sure the family had clothes and toiletries. Only the kitchen and a bedroom were left intact.

Mrs Elliott also said the family used a hosepipe to try to douse the flames while waiting for the fire service.

“The fire service said it would have been worse without it, if that’s possible,” she added.

Mr Elliott said: “I saw little flames. It didn’t look that bad but it just spread so fast.”

Nearby pub The Shepherd fed the family on Friday night, and Mr Elliott said: “We were offered more beds than there were people to stay in them.”

Incident commander, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service (ECFRS) divisional officer Gary Jeffrey, said: “Firefighters had to cut into the wire covering the thatched roof and then stripped back the thatch which was tightly packed together to reach the fire.

“The crews’ excellent efforts and hard work stopped the fire from spreading to an extension within the cottage.”

The wind was also blowing towards the neighbouring property, which also had a thatched roof.

Crews protected the fire from spreading by cooling the cottage with water jets to stop any stray embers landing on their thatched roof. The cause of the blaze is being investigated, but it is not being treated as suspicious.

Mrs Elliott said: “Thank-you to everyone that helped – friends, villagers, the pub, firefighters – everyone who offered us things.”