Family lose their home in Dickleburgh farm fire

A family-of-six have lost their home and possessions after a blaze broke out in a farm building near Diss.

About 40 firefighters rushed to The Beeches Farm, off Norwich Road, Dickleburgh, shortly before 2.30pm today as flames spread through the 20m by 8m structure which housed three mobile homes.

A cordon was put in place around the farm to protect villagers from the toxic smoke which billowed from the building created by asbestos in its roof.

South Norfolk Council was also readying to help evacuate residents to Diss High School, but as darkness fell fire crews said they had the blaze under control.

However they had not yet dared enter the premises due to a number of gas cylinders inside.

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Gary Spurling, who has owned the farm for 10 years and runs an asphalting business, said he was living in the building with his wife Julie and their four children; Ella, 12, and five-year-old triplets Lucas, Shona and Sasha.

The family were using it as temporary accommodation while preparing plans for a permanent home on the farm.

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He said friends in the village were looking after the youngest children, while well-wishers were bringing a caravan for them to sleep in and had donated food and clothing.

'I'm a bit shocked at the moment. It's hard to get to grips with what we need. We lost everything - I don't have a stitch. But everyone is rallying around. People have been brilliant,' said Mr Spurling.

His wife was the only person in the building when the fire started, thought to have been caused by a log burner.

Mrs Spurling said: 'I literally turned around and it had taken so quickly. In a second the whole room was full with smoke. My eyes were streaming.'

After failed efforts to douse the flames with an extinguisher and a fire blanket, she called the emergency service.

Four fire appliances from Diss, Harleston and Long Stratton arrived, plus the water carrier from Hethersett.

Incident commander Joe Warns said a specialist unit from Sprowston was called to 'decontaminate' some of the firefighters due to their proximity to the asbestos, while a support team from the Red Cross also attended to help the family.

He urged anyone with buildings containing gas cylinders to store them in marked areas to ensure their safe recovery in the case of a fire.

'It can have a massive impact on what happens. This area is fairly remote but it could have been near a school or a hospital,' he said.

Fire crews are due to remain at the farm throughout the night.

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