Woman rescued from blazing house

FIREMEN braved blazing timbers to pull a sleeping woman out of a burning house.Only minutes earlier a neighbour had also risked his life in the belief there was someone in the house.

FIREMEN braved blazing timbers to pull a sleeping woman out of a burning house.

Only minutes earlier a neighbour had also risked his life in the belief there was someone in the house.

Last night the woman, who was housesitting for the owners of the picturesque cottage in Brome, near Eye, said she owed them her life.

Firefighters praised the actions of the neighbours, saying if it had not been for them, crews would have been dealing with a fatality.

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The thatched section of the roof was completely ablaze with flames snaking into the night sky.

Nearly 60 firefighters from all over Suffolk and into Norfolk tackled yesterday's blaze at the house, which is owned by David and Di Downes, currently away on holiday in Sri Lanka.

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They spent the rest of the day damping down, looking for hotspots and centering their investigation on a flue from a solid fuel cooking range in the kitchen.

The woman who was inside the house, known only as Hazel, had been sleeping in a downstairs bedroom when the fire broke out.

Last night she said: “I was so lucky. I have the firemen to thank for saving my life. Without them I would be dead.”

She added she had been unable to sleep and had put ear plugs in to help. Once she had got off to sleep she slept very soundly.

She said: “I went to bed around 10.30pm and the next thing I knew I was being woken up by two firemen - literally. It was the first I knew about it.

“They got me out of bed and out of the house.

“I have not been hurt in any way shape or form and I have the firemen to thank for that. We - me, the two dogs and the two cats - are all fine.”

She added: “I always sleep in the back of the house. If I'd have been upstairs…well no-one would have got out of there alive. It's just devastating.

“I am so dreadfully sorry for what has happened, but I know in my heart of hearts I would not have done anything differently and I have not done anything differently to what David and Di Downes have told me to do.”

Hazel also praised the work of the neighbours who had tried to help.

She said: “I don't know them all by name but they have been absolutely marvellous.”

Steve Matthews and Jason Noller, who live in thatched cottages opposite were the first on the scene.

Mr Matthews called the fire service as did another neighbour Cyril Hammond.

Mr Matthews said he woke up when he heard a loud bang.

“The whole of the ridge of the roof was on fire. I thought if they are in there they don't stand a chance.

“Then I heard dogs barking and thought there must be people in there if dogs are in there.

“I stoved the door in and neighbours took the dogs next door. The first thing you think of is if there are people inside you've got to get them out.”

Having got the dogs out Mr Matthews shouted, but failed to wake anyone.

Still convinced there was someone in the house he remained inside shouting while burning timbers fell from the ceiling.

He said: “I went into the kitchen and called and called. I could hear crackling and popping and I could hear the house creaking, bits of the floor were breaking off and dropping in.

“I don't know my way round the house and it was pretty warm. I thought, 'I'm not going to hang about here' and came out.”

Assistant chief fire officer Gary Phillips said: “If it had not been for the promptness of these neighbours we would have been dealing with a fatality here today.”

Andrew and Johnny Downes, sons of the couple had travelled back to Suffolk to help with the salvage operation.

Andrew Downes said: “I had heard it had been razed to the ground, but I am told it can be rebuilt. The frame is still there. On the Richter scale of disasters it is not a 10. You have to look on the bright side - at least no-one was killed.”

He praised the efforts of neighbours and nearby family friends who had spent the whole day taking furniture out and drying it in the hope of saving it.

And sector commander Paul Seager praised the local community for their help in rallying round.

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