Fire spotter's own home in flames

FIREFIGHTERS were praised today after saving a 15th century Suffolk farm cottage from ruin after sparks from a wood burner set a chimney ablaze.Homeowner Fred Pratt, 74, was working in neighbouring Whatfield when he spotted, thick black smoke clouding the sky – but little did he realise that the emergency was at his own home.

By Tina Heath

FIREFIGHTERS were praised today after saving a 15th century Suffolk farm cottage from ruin after sparks from a wood burner set a chimney ablaze.

Homeowner Fred Pratt, 74, was working in neighbouring Whatfield when he spotted, thick black smoke clouding the sky – but little did he realise that the emergency was at his own home.

So it was up to a Good Samaritan neighbour to warn wife Joan, 69, that their house was on fire.

The couple heaped praise on firefighters following the blaze at their wood-timbered home in Naughton, near Hadleigh.

"I was on my way back when my wife called. I had seen a lot of black smoke but I didn't realise it was my house on fire," said Mr Pratt.

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"The firemen did a marvellous job. As they knocked the burning embers down the chimney there was a man with a bucket collecting it up and taking it outside. The only damage we got was a hole half way up the chimney on the outside."

Mrs Pratt told how a neighbour alerted her to the blaze shortly after 2.30pm yesterday.

"I was here but I didn't realise there was a fire. A neighbour and a friend came round and told me.

"I didn't panic when I saw it, although I was the only one here," said Mrs Pratt, who together with her husband owns arable farms in Whatfield, Nedging and Naughton.

Retained firefighters from Hadleigh and a crew from Princes Street station in Ipswich spent more than two hours at the scene.

A thermal imaging camera was used to locate the blaze deep within the chimney and a turntable ladder was brought in to give firefighters a platform to work from.

Officer in charge, ADO Gary Clark, confirmed that the blaze had been started by sparks from the wood burner setting fire to tar-like material which had built up inside the chimney.

The four bedroom cottage, off the B1078, sustained smoke damage to the first floor and loft.

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