Update: Mendlesham family escape devastating house blaze

A FATHER has today spoken of his relief that he and his family escaped unscathed from a fire that destroyed the upstairs of their home.

Neil Williams, 46, was alerted at around 1.40am this morning to the fire in his loft and frantically woke his sleeping children, Freddie, 11, and eight-year-old Erin before fleeing their cottage, in Front Street, Mendlesham with wife Julie.

He said he was thankful they all got out uninjured and added: “The fire brigade were here within 20 minutes, which considering where we are is fantastic.

“They have been great, as have our neighbours.”

Looking up at the bare roof struts of the family home, an 1890s semi-detached cottage, he added: “I don’t think there is going to be much left inside.”

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He explained that the family will spend today buying the essentials before starting the daunting task of assessing the damage and establishing exactly what has been lost.

“The neighbours have lent us clothes but we have nothing for the children, and no glasses or hearing aids.”

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The road remains closed while fire investigation teams and engineers work to establish the extent of the structural damage and look for a potential cause.

The two women living next door to the Williams family, who asked not to be named, said: “It was rather dramatic, we feel very lucky that no-one was hurt.

“Had it been in any other room other than the roof, I don’t think they would have got out.”

The pair added: “We heard this almighty noise from next door, it sounded like someone banging the wardrobe and we thought the children had gone crazy.

“It turned out it was the sound of tiles on the roof popping.”

Neighbours bashed on the door and, realising the danger they were in, the women dashed to safety.

“We were stood on the opposite side of the street and we could feel the heat, it was that intense,” they said.

Their home was relatively undamaged and they put this down to the traditional building style.

“Had it been a modern house it probably wouldn’t have survived.”

More than 20 firefighters were at the scene during the peak of the fire.

Crews from Stowmarket and Debenham were called first, plus the turntable ladder from Colchester Road in Ipswich.

A further crew from Eye were also dispatched.

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