House sitter rescued from huge blaze

A HOUSE sitter was rescued from a blazing Suffolk cottage today after fire broke out in a roof while she was asleep and wearing ear plugs.Hero neighbour Cyril Hammond raised the alarm after he was woken by the crackling flames at around 3am this morning.

A HOUSE sitter was rescued from a blazing Suffolk cottage today after fire broke out in a roof while she was asleep and wearing ear plugs.

Hero neighbour Cyril Hammond raised the alarm after he was woken by the crackling flames at around 3am this morning.

And while another neighbour rushed to let out the cats and dogs from the blazing cottage near Eye, the woman was left sleeping inside because no-one even knew she was there.

Leading firefighter at the scene Kevin Burton said the first the woman knew of the blaze was when crews burst into her room and plucked her from her bed.

Nearly 60 firefighters from across the county, including Stowmarket, Needham Market and Hadleigh, were called to tackle the blaze which completely destroyed the roof and the first floor and were expected to remain on the scene most of the day damping down to ensure the fire does not re-ignite.

The cottage and the pets were being looked after while owners David and Di Downs are away on holiday in Sri Lanka.

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The woman, known only as Hazel, was treated for smoke inhalation and was being looked after by neighbours but was too distressed to talk after her ordeal.

Mr Hammond described how he woke to what he thought was crackling caused by overhead power lines, which he said often happens in windy weather.

He said: “But then I saw a glow out of the window looked out, and rushed down to ring the fire service. They arrived here in about five minutes, they were incredibly fast.

“I didn't know there was anyone in the house but my neighbour rushed over and let out the dogs and cats so they weren't hurt at all. I only found out later that there had been someone in the house and that she'd been rescued by the fire service.”

John Stiff, who was looking after the house sitter today said she was very grateful to the firefighters and Mr Hammond for raising the alarm.

Mr Stiff said: “You've heard of neighbours from hell, well David and Di are the neighbours from heaven. We feel very sorry for them and for what they will find when they come home from their holiday.

“They're the kind of people who will help anyone, it's very sad that this should have happened to them.”

The couple's son was due to come up from London later today to inspect the damage to their home.

Divisional Officer Kevin Burton was the firefighter in charge at the scene this morning. He thought the fire may have been caused by a flue leading from the Rayburn cooker in the kitchen.

He said: “There were eight fire appliances here because this was a very big incident of this kind. They carried 40 firefighters and then we had support vehicles up from headquarters in Ipswich with another 15 or so.”

Firefighters from Suffolk and Norfolk took part in the battle to bring the blaze under control, and most were on the scene for several hours.

The house was virtually destroyed by the fire, but an outbuilding that has recently been converted into residential accommodation was undamaged.

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