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Heroic neighbour helps tackle thatch roof fire at 200-year-old house

PUBLISHED: 18:00 23 March 2016

A fire took out part of the roof of a thatched cottage on The Causeway in Great Horkesley.

A fire took out part of the roof of a thatched cottage on The Causeway in Great Horkesley.

A homeowner in Essex has hailed the heroic work of nearby neighbours in saving his house after a thatch-roof fire broke out.

At around 6.15pm on Tuesday flames were spotted by a neighbour at the house of David and Vivien Murthwaite in The Causeway, Great Horkesley.

The quick thinking neighbour, who did not wish to be named, quickly alerted 63-year-old Mrs Murthwaite, who was in the house on her own at the time, before dialing 999.

But his extraordinary efforts went even further when he began to tackle the fire on the roof with a ladder and garden hose, helping to contain the spread of flames.

Thirteen fire engines from across Essex and Sudbury were scrambled 10 minutes later, and worked for more than two hours to extinguish the blaze.

Mr Murthwaite, 65, the retired former police chief superintendent in Colchester, said: “They did a tremendous early job getting the hose on it and when the fire brigade arrived they did a superb job.

“There are not many thatch fires where you have two thirds left, and that is credit to my neighbours and the fire brigade.”

It is not yet known how the fire started at the 220-year-old house, but Mr Murthwaite said he suspected it may have been a breach between the flue lining and chimney stack.

Fortunately, the damage was mostly contained to the roof and one bedroom, with some minor smoke and water damage, but Mr Murthwaite admitted: “We are lucky the vast amount of damage is confined to the roof and one bedroom.

“As you would expect it was a very worrying and traumatic time, but we are just trying to get back to some level of normality.

“Neighbours, friends, family and the fire brigade have been very supportive and I am very pleased with the sense of community when times are tough.”

An Essex Fire and Rescue spokesman confirmed that no-one had been injured in the fire.

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