Oakley Fire: Owners watch on as beautiful thatched farmhouse destroyed in blaze

PUBLISHED: 12:07 06 April 2016 | UPDATED: 08:31 07 April 2016

The damage after the house in Oakley partially collapsed. Photo: Sonya Duncan/Archant

The damage after the house in Oakley partially collapsed. Photo: Sonya Duncan/Archant


A couple have described the moment they watched a blaze destroy their historic thatched cottage home of nearly 40 years today.

Colin and Bridget Hitchman, of Poplar Farm in Lower Road Oakley, near Diss, watched as 50 firefighters tackled the blaze which ripped through their 15th Century Grade II listed house - which has caused the majority of the building to collapse.

Mr Hitchman said the fire started when he spotted a small wisp of smoke coming from the thatch on the roof.

Thatched cottage fire at Hoxne. Picture: SONYA DUNCANThatched cottage fire at Hoxne. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

He immediately called the fire service.

The 66-year-old said: “I was outside and the smoke alarms didn’t go off. I had a little bit of time to grab a few items but then the wind picked up and within a few minutes it was alight.”

Firefighters tackle a blaze at a thatched cottage in Oakley.Firefighters tackle a blaze at a thatched cottage in Oakley.

Ten crews from Norfolk and Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service attended the fire.

Firefighters were able to help Mr Hitchman salvage some of his belongings including furniture from the ground and first floors.

The building was then evacuated because it was feared the building might collapse.

Mr Hitchman said: “The fire service have been tremendous and we are very grateful. While they were spraying it with water you could just see the fire getting away from them.”

Firefighters tackle the devastating house fire in Low Street Oakley near Diss.Firefighters tackle the devastating house fire in Low Street Oakley near Diss.

Mrs Hitchman, who had been at work when the fire started, said they had always been very careful with the thatch.

She said: “We were so conscious of the thatch catching fire. We were just so careful with lighting fires. It just goes to show you can’t be too careful.”

The fire service received the call at 11.05am.

Six of the crews are from Norfolk, including the aerial ladder platform from Earlham, and crews from Thetford, Diss, Long Stratton and East Harling.

John Tiffen, group commander from Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The fire was fully alight when we got here. It was a perfect mixture of thatch and wind.

“Firefighters were inside trying to salvage but then they had to evacuate in case of the roof collapsing. The house is fairy well destroyed.”

Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service have said some crews would be remaining until well into the night.

The B1118 has been shut.

A Suffolk fire service spokesman added: “This is a tragic incident at a beautiful thatch property and we would remind similar home owners of the simple thatch safety advice that is available on the our website.”

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