Winter of thatch fires sparks warning

FIRE chiefs have issued a warning to homeowners after revealing that this winter was the “worst on record” for thatch cottage blazes.Suffolk Fire Service officials were speaking after the latest incident on Thursday night when a family were forced to flee their village home in Preston St Mary, near Sudbury.

FIRE chiefs have issued a warning to homeowners after revealing that this winter was the “worst on record” for thatch cottage blazes.

Suffolk Fire Service officials were speaking after the latest incident on Thursday night when a family were forced to flee their village home in Preston St Mary, near Sudbury.

A brigade spokesman said: “Usually there are around 100 serious thatch fires nationally, and we would expect 15-20 of varying severity in Suffolk - but we have exceeded that already.

“Approximately 80% of thatch fires are caused by the transfer of heat from chimneys into the thatch, causing the thatch to self-ignite.


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“This is exaggerated by the use of multi-fuel or wood-burning stoves, as they burn at a much higher temperature than open fires.”

Thatch fires have destroyed a number of properties in the region in recent months.

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The latest incident was on Thursday night in Preston St Mary, near Sudbury, when fire ripped through the thatched roof.

Speaking yesterday, the tenants of the property, who did not want to be named, said: “We were sitting in the lounge when we just noticed the fire. We managed to escape the property and we now just feel very lucky that we are all here in one piece.

“We are very grateful and thankful for the firefighters who did such a marvellous job. And also to our neighbours who have all rallied round and helped.”

Offering advice to homeowners, the spokesman for Suffolk Fire Service said the risk of fire would be greater if the wood burning stoves were kept alight all the time.

He added: “As well as normal fire safety precautions, people with thatched roofs should keep chimneys in good condition - get them professionally swept and checked by a competent builder.

“They should make sure the chimney is lined with an insulated metal liner if using multi-fuel or wood burning stoves as this will help stop heat transfer and try and let the fire burn down or out regularly so the chimney can cool down.”

Installing a smoke alarm in the loft space, and connecting it with others in the house, was another way of reducing the risk.

A seminar on the prevention of thatch fires will be held on February 20 at Wickhambrook Village Hall. More information is available from leading firefighter Dale Nunn at Haverhill Fire Station on 01440 702123.

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