Suffolk: Investigation into huge thatch fire continues

AN investigation is continuing today into the cause of a blaze that ripped through a thatched property in rural Suffolk.

Firefighters worked through the night to tackle the fire, which engulfed the roof of a detached timber-framed house in Worlingworth, near Framlingham.

Crews from across Suffolk and Norfolk were called to the blaze in Southolt Road around 4.30pm yesterday.

Firefighters were still on scene today but were preparing to return home around 1pm.

Group manager Dave Pedersen said: “We have had a presence here on the scene throughout the night.

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“Crews were confronted by a very well developed roof fire. The smoke alarm notified the occupiers at an early stage.

“Crews managed to salvage around 90% of the possessions. Unfortunately the roof has completely gone and will need to be re-thatched. However we were able to prevent the fire from spreading any further - the first floor is in good condition.

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“We are now in the process of undertaking a fire investigation to ascertain the cause.”

Police were also drafted in to manage traffic as up to ten crews fought the flames.

At one point, firefighters came into contact with the flames as they climbed up against the roof to pull thatch away by hand, in a desperate bid to create fire breaks.

It was the latest in a string of house fires to have started in roofs or chimneys.

Over the weekend, firefighters dealt with a string of chimney blazes which broke out in Aldeburgh, Witnesham, Chediston, Woolpit and Elmswell.

And as fire chiefs urged the public to do their bit by ensuring chimneys were regularly swept, further incidents were reported.

At 10pm, a chimney blaze was reported in Rattlesden Road, Buxhall. And shortly before that, in St Helens Street, Ipswich, at about 6pm, a hearth fire in a basement caused smoke to billow into the loft of the building.

Gary Clarke, group manager for the fire service, urged all Suffolk residents to remain vigilant.

“Incidents such as chimney fires and thatched roof fires are quite closely linked,” he said.

“We would urge all homeowners with chimneys to make sure that they are swept on a regular basis and that they ensure that the chimney breast is always well maintained and in a good condition.

“We advise people that there should be 1.8metres between the top of the chimney breast and the thatching.”

Fire investigators were last night trying to establish the exact cause of the Worlingworth fire.

Speaking from the scene last night, station manager Steve Mableson said: “Fighting fires in thatched properties is very resource heavy. To prevent the fire from spreading, we have to get in as fast as possible.”

He said an added difficulty in fighting thatch fires was the fact the roofs were sometimes 3ft thick and covered in chicken netting – which meant it all had to be stripped away to get to the source of the fire.

“The crews here have worked extremely hard. As well as the firefighters stripping away the thatch from the outside, we’ve had people wearing breathing apparatus inside as well.

“We’ve salvaged as much as we can from the house.”

He said there was one woman in the house at the time of the fire. She was uninjured.

Firefighters, who removed a large proportion of the home’s thatch, remained at the scene throughout the night.

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