Inquiry after blaze rips through cottage

AN INVESTIGATION is under way today after more than 50 firefighters were called to a blaze that ripped through a thatched cottage in a Suffolk village.

FIREFIGHTERS were still keeping a watchful eye on a thatched home in Tuddenham early today, after a massive blaze erupted at the detached house.

Smoke was still rising from the gaping hole in the roof and sodden, charred remains lay on the ground beside the detached property in Main Road.

Around 50 firefighters tackled the blaze, which claimed the whole of the roof, when it broke out at around 3pm yesterday .

A total of five crews from Ipswich, one from Woodbridge, one from Needham Market, one from Debenham and another from Holbrook attended the blaze and firefighters were still on scene 17 hours later.

Investigations have now begun into the cause of the fire and assessments started to see how stable the property is.

Gary Phillips, assistant divisional officer who attended the fire, said: “It is a very large building and the fire was the biggest of its kind that I have ever been to.

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“Firefighters worked through the night and are thought to be able to leave the site this morning after continuing to dampen down the house.”

When firefighters arrived the roof of the house was completely engulfed and a huge hole had been burnt through the middle and crews had to use water from nearby swimming pools to douse the flames.

The property is owned by Julia Scowsill, who put in a planning application to Suffolk Coastal District Council to erect a cart lodge in July this year, as part of extensive renovations.

Philip Welham, who witnessed the fire, said: “I live down in the village and the smoke was so thick I thought someone had a big bonfire going.

“I came up the road to see what was going on and then just saw the thatch well alight. I feel so sorry for the owners because they've just had a lot of work done to the house and now it looks as if it's all gone.”

Dave Gulliford, a builder working at a nearby property, said: “I was just over the road when I noticed some smoke and a few people standing around.

“I asked if anyone knew if there was anyone in the house and when they said no I went round banging on the doors and windows to see if I could see the homeowners or any pets.”

Phil Embury, divisional officer with Suffolk Fire Service, said: “When we arrived the fire was very well developed. There are around 50 personnel all working hard to save some of the contents of the building.

“Unfortunately most of the roof is burnt and we have had to use water from the swimming pool at the rear of the house as well as from others down the road.

“Thatch fires are very difficult because the roof is designed to repel water so you can't just squirt water on the top of the roof - you have to get in and underneath.

“Thatch roof properties obviously present additional risks when compared to traditional buildings and people should ensure their chimneys are swept regularly, that the flues are lined and the thatch kept in good condition.”

Between March 2005 and April this year, firefighters were called to 21 thatch roof fires across the county, compared to just nine in 2003/04.

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