Man quizzed after blaze hits two homes

A MAN has been arrested on suspicion of starting a devastating fire that spread into a neighbouring home while the owner slept.John Brown yesterday spoke of his horror after watching flames rip through an adjoining property and into the roof of his own 400-year-old cottage, in The Street, Barrow, near Bury St Edmunds.

A MAN has been arrested on suspicion of starting a devastating fire that spread into a neighbouring home while the owner slept.

John Brown yesterday spoke of his horror after watching flames rip through an adjoining property and into the roof of his own 400-year-old cottage, in The Street, Barrow, near Bury St Edmunds.

The 52-year-old, who had spent five-months renovating the house before moving in last February, was asleep in his upstairs bedroom when the incident happened, at around 4am.

He managed to raise the alarm after being woken by the smell of smoke, which had poured in through a hatch in the ceiling of his room.


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Last night, Suffolk police confirmed a 43-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the incident, on suspicion of arson endangering life, driving a motor vehicle with excess alcohol and failing to stop for a police constable.

He was stopped in the village of Kentford, near Newmarket, around two hours after the fire started.

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Mr Brown, who owns his own building renovation company, said: “There was so much smoke, but I could not work out where it was coming from at first, so I went outside and I could see flames coming out of one of the upstairs bedroom windows of the house next door.

“I called the fire brigade, then knocked on the front door of the house to see if there was anyone inside, but I found out my neighbour had already left. I could see the flames spreading quickly, and I thought it was only a matter of time before the fire went into my house.”

Around 20 firefighters, from Bury and Wickhambrook, battled to extinguish the blaze, and to salvage Mr Brown's belongings from his cottage.

“We managed to get almost everything out of the house, all except the large bits of furniture,” said Mr Brown. “I had originally bought the house as a project, but it was so lovely that I decided to live there.

“The fire is a huge inconvenience, but I can easily put another roof on and it won't be long before I will be able to move back in.

“The upstairs rooms will need new ceilings and carpets, and I will just have to stay with friends and relatives until then. But the house next door is completely wrecked, and I think it will have to be demolished.”

Assistant Divisional Officer John Hubble said the inside of the house where the fire started had been left very unstable, after both the roof and the ground-floor ceiling collapsed.

But he also praised Mr Brown for raising the alarm so quickly, and warned the situation could have been a lot worse.

“If the fire had not been detected at an early stage we could be looking at the possibility of the same level of damage being caused to both properties,” he said.

“By the time we arrived at the scene the fire was well advanced. We used jets to contain the flames, and to stop them from spreading to the neighbouring property as much as possible.

“The flames were extinguished in around 30 minutes, at which point we were able to confirm whether there was anyone else in the building, which there was not.”

Fire investigation officers were at the scene yesterday in a bid to determine the cause.

The 43-year-old last night remained in custody at Bury Police Station.

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