Repair work begins on fire-ravaged house

WORK has only just begun on the rebuilding of a thatched home badly damaged by fire a year ago - because of a delay in the insurance company settling the claim.

By David Green

WORK has only just begun on the rebuilding of a thatched home badly damaged by fire a year ago - because of a delay in the insurance company settling the claim.

A sleeping “house sitter” was rescued by firefighters on the night of February 23 last year when the 17th century home of David and Di Downes at Brome, near Eye, caught fire while they were on safari in Sri Lanka.

The first floor of the property and the entire roof was destroyed by the blaze while the couple's dogs were rescued by neighbours who were first on the scene.


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About 60 firefighters from all over Suffolk and south Norfolk fought the fire which is thought to have been caused by the flue pipe from a kitchen stove overheating.

Now work is at last under way by a local company, House and Garden, to repair and restore the house after a delay in settling the insurance claim.

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“We are very pleased with the way the rebuilding work is progressing. The past year has been extremely traumatic for us but we count ourselves very lucky that no-one was killed or injured in the fire. We are well aware that properties can always be replaced, but not lives,” Mrs Downes said.

Her husband said the couple's experience of the past 12 months should serve as a warning to other home owners to ensure they had adequate insurance to rebuild a partly damaged property.

“Like ourselves, I suspect most people think they are okay with cover which extends to the complete replacement of a home totally destroyed by fire.

“However, especially with a listed building, it is more costly to rebuild a partly destroyed property than replace one which is raised to the ground. New building is exempt from VAT,” he said.

Mr and Mrs Downes said the insurance settlement had fallen far short of the costs involved, including the costs of building a protective canopy over the shell of the fire-ravaged building and erect scaffolding round its entire perimeter.

The couple, who have five grown-up children, are now living in a former barn which they had already converted for rent by holidaymakers.

“It has been ideal because, apart from not being able to put up our children when they visit, we have been able to continue to live on our own land and keep the gardens going.

“I think the loss of the house has been more stressful for our children because they grew up here. For us the stress of the insurance delay has proved more stressful that the fire itself,” Mrs Downes said.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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