Fire claims more thatched cottages

Three thatched cottages on a row believed to be the longest in Britain were destroyed by fire - just weeks after the next two along also badly damaged in another blaze.

Three thatched cottages on a row believed to be the longest in Britain were destroyed by fire yesterday - just weeks after the next two along also badly damaged in another blaze.

Of the 10 cottages on The Row, Weeting, near Thetford, only four are now habitable. The two in the centre are covered in scaffolding and protective covering while the three at the top of the row were yesterday reduced to smouldering shells.

Yesterday one of the tenants of the three homes destroyed, all owned by housing association Peddlars Way, said she would never go back as she now feared for her baby's life.

But the tenant in number two, where the fire broke out, said he wanted to return as soon as the house is rebuilt - if it ever is.

A fire investigation team on the scene yesterday said it was too early to tell what caused the blaze but Jason Bibby, 35, said he believed it was his coal fire that was responsible.

“I was watching telly at about 11.30pm on Easter Sunday when a neighbour knocked on my door and told me my roof was on fire,” he said.

Most Read

“We raced round banging on neighbours' doors but it was too late to do anything, we just had to wait for the fire engines to arrive.

“I had a coal fire going as these cottages are heritage protected and aren't allowed to have central heating installed. The chimneys aren't swept often and it must be because of that that this fire broke out.”

Mr Bibby, a full-time carer, lost all his possessions and said yesterday he did not have contents insurance so would now have to start from scratch.

“Thatched cottage insurance is so expensive and I couldn't afford it. But despite this fire, and the one a few weeks ago, I'd still go back if they rebuild these cottages.”

Next-door neighbour Elaine Lydon, a 23-year-old single mother, said she would never return and believed she and her baby were lucky to still be alive.

“I was fast asleep, as was my sister and my 18-month-old son, when I was woken up by lots of banging on my door,” she said. “I've never seen such big flames in my life. After the last fire I knew it was too dangerous to live there.”

A representative from Peddlars Way who had been at the scene all night said yesterday that tenants would be rehomed immediately.

At its peak, 80 firefighters from 10 crews were summoned to deal with the blaze. Many had been part of the team that dealt with the fire at numbers five and six on February 18.

Norfolk's fire control station always doubles the number of crews it would send to a blaze if it involves a thatched roof, not because the fire spreads quickly but because much of the

roof needs to be removed to isolate the fire.

That then means the contents within the home become waterlogged when the hoses are trained upon it, so at least one extra team is dispatched to go into a property and remove valuables while other firefighters start work on the blaze.