Woolpit: Couple escape blaze which destroyed their cottage

A COUPLE escaped a fire which gutted their Suffolk home after they were woken by the noise of the flames.

A COUPLE are lucky to be alive after escaping a fire which gutted their Suffolk home, it has been claimed.

The pair, named locally as Ron and Sheila O’Keefe, were woken by the sound of flames which engulfed their cottage in Warren Lane, Woolpit, around 3.45am yesterday.

It took 30 firefighters from Bury St Edmunds, Ixworth and Elmswell around an hour to bring the blaze under control, which had spread to the first floor and roof of the property, which is thought to be around 300 years old.

Crew manager Pete Austin, who was at the scene to damp down yesterday morning, said the pair were lucky to be alive.

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“They were very lucky this wasn’t a fatality,” he said.

Scenes of crime officers were combing the wreckage of the building yesterday as an investigation was launched into the cause of the blaze.

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Dave Collins, group manager for Suffolk Fire Service, said the fire seemed to have started in the living room.

He added no working smoke detectors had been found at the property so far.

“This is, without doubt, a serious fire,” he said. “It had spread through most of the building.

“I would like to stress how important it is to have a working fire alarm on each level of your premises.”

Mr and Mrs O’Keefe only suffered minor injuries in the blaze and were taken to West Suffolk Hospital by a relative.

Neighbours of the couple said the pair, who are thought to be in their 70s, had lived in the former workers cottages since 1975.

The neighbour, who asked not to be named, said he and his wife had woken to find the next door property well alight.

“The fire was very well established as there was a lot of smoke around,” he said. “It is absolutely ghastly.

“Ron and Sheila are great people and it was a terrible shock.”

The neighbour said Mr and Mrs O’Keefe had enjoyed living in the picturesque cottage, which had been a country retreat for them.

“The cottage was a little treasure,” he said. “It must have been grim to look at your house with smoke pouring out. It could have been a lot worse.”

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