Thatched home destroyed by blaze

A DEVASTATED homeowner watched in tears yesterday as his country cottage was virtually destroyed by an intense blaze which ripped through the thatched roof and first floor.

A DEVASTATED homeowner watched in tears yesterday as his country cottage was virtually destroyed by an intense blaze which ripped through the thatched roof and first floor.

Thousands of pounds worth of damage was caused to the detached home when the fire took hold shortly before 2pm. Neighbours battled in vain to rescue the property using garden hoses.

Thick grey smoke billowed into the sky above the village of Pakenham, near Bury St Edmunds, throughout the afternoon as more than 60 firefighters from across west Suffolk struggled to save portions of the house and salvage belongings.

But light winds saw the flames spread quickly leaving the home, in Fen Road, completely uninhabitable with little more than black beams visible through the wreckage.

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"There was a tremendous amount of damage caused to the cottage, as there always is with thatch fires which take hold," said Divisional Officer Kevin Burton, stationed at Bury.

"The roof and first floor have been destroyed, and pockets of fire have also broken down into the kitchen area on the ground floor.

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"There is little we can do in these situations apart from salvage work. Normally we would take the top cover of thatch off, but as the fire had taken hold quickly, we spent a lot of time picking up burning thatch which had fallen through into the first floor. Obviously periods were also spent damping down, as there were sections of thatch still alight.

"Tackling these fires is always a long, laborious process, taking a vast amount of energy. It is such intensive work that the crews visibly tire after around an hour."

Front gardens and driveways around the scene were filled with chairs, tables and lampshades – some stained black from smoke damage – rescued when a chain of neighbours and firefighters passed the items to safety.

These efforts were congratulated by fire officials – but they said villagers who climbed ladders to tackle the flames close-up had put themselves in danger.

DO Burton added: "When we arrived, the homeowner and a number of neighbours were attempting to put out the fire with garden hoses.

"There was also a gentleman up a ladder to the rear of the property, amid all the smoke, doing the same."

He said he should have not put himself in such danger as he could have fallen through the roof.

"We would advise people faced with situations like this to call us straight away and only save items close to the door. But the neighbours were very good in assisting crews committed to the salvage work, and helped carry the man's property to safety across the road."

Villagers lined the streets to watch the efforts of rescue crews, with the narrow country lanes surrounding the site quickly becoming clogged with fire appliances and police cars.

Many who witnessed the blaze – including the homeowner himself – were too shocked to discuss the incident.

"This is obviously very distressing for the man who owns the property, but luckily we managed to salvage a lot of his belongings from both floors," continued DO Burton.

"A rear extension to the house, which is tiled, has been saved, and the majority of the ground floor is also safe.

"But as there are holes in the ceiling and two inches of water on the floor, the cottage is obviously uninhabitable.

"Unfortunately we do not yet know the cause of the fire, but will be carrying out an investigation. At the moment, it looks like it may have begun to the rear of the property, somewhere around the chimney breast."

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