Thatched roof destroyed by blaze

MORE than 50 firefighters battled a blaze which ripped through the roof of a thatched cottage last night and left its owners facing a massive clear up operation.

MORE than 50 firefighters battled a blaze which ripped through the roof of a thatched cottage last night and left its owners facing a massive clear up operation.

As investigations began into the fire at Preston St Mary, near Sudbury, fire chiefs warned that it might well have been started by a wood burner in the lounge.

Neighbours spoke of their shock at the incident, which at its height engulfed more than half of the property as firefighters from six different stations carried out a salvage operation.

Although only four crews attended the scene initially, this number was soon doubled as officers discovered the full scale of the blaze.

A family, who are believed to be renting the property in Rookwood Lane, were thought to be in the property at the time of the fire but managed to escape unharmed.

Assistant Divisional Officer Geoff Pyke , of Suffolk Fire Service, said: “When we originally got the call, we sent four appliances but we soon made it eight before we even got there as crews could see the fire from quite a distance.

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“The strong wind had meant the fire engulfed the entire roof and so it was subsequently a salvage operation. But nothing could be done to save the first floor, which is located inside the roof .

“It was such a quick fire - normally with this type of incident, it can take a few hours to bring under control. But due to the rapid spread of the fire, most of the thatch had already been destroyed.

“We believe at this stage that the most likely cause of the fire was from a wood burner in the lounge which has a metal flue going up the chimney breast. We believe the heat from this rose into the thatch.”

A neighbour, who did not want to be identified, said: “At first, I thought it was just a bonfire but then I saw flames over my trees.

“I ran to the property to check everyone was okay and fortunately they had got out of the property. The tenants are very nice people and the thatched cottage is absolutely beautiful. It is all quite a shock.”

It is believed the owner of the property is currently overseas while the property has been rented by a family of four.

Fire crews from Bury St Edmunds, Sudbury, Hadleigh, Needham Market, Stowmarket and Long Melford tackled the blaze, which started at about 4pm.

They were expected to remain at the scene for most of the night using thermal imaging equipment to identify any hot spots.

The tenants declined to comment on the incident last night.

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