Suffolk thatched fire under investigation

An investigation into what caused a fire which devastated a thatched cottage in a Suffolk village has been delayed until the property is safe to enter.

Much of the first floor of the cottage in Wissett Road, halfway between Wissett and Chediston, near Halesworth, was destroyed by the fire, which started late on Tuesday evening.

Eight crews fought the flames and firefighters finally left the site at about 12.30pm yesterday after spending the morning damping down the area.

They will return once the structure has been made safe to conduct an investigation, although it is believed the fire began in the thatch and was caused by flames from a woodburner coming through gaps in the chimney stack.

Fire group manager Dave Pedersen said much of the furniture had been salvaged from the property, which suffered extensive fire and smoke damage.

He said: 'The roof was part-thatched and part-tiled and the thatched element has gone. There's considerable damage to the first floor and the ground floor too. We believe it to be the wood-burner but unfortunately because of the insecure state of the building we can't go in at the moment. We think there was a fault in the chimney itself.'

He added that the homeowners had only noticed that something was wrong when the electricity cut off at about 8.30pm.

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He said: 'Their power supply failed and they went to investigate what caused the fault and realised they had a severe fire in the loft area, involving the thatch.

'We salvaged the bulk of the furniture but by the time we had arrived the fire was very serious.'

He said it was the time of year when people had the opportunity to light open fires and wood burners but those doing so needed to follow some simple rules. Any house, particularly those with thatches, should have working smoke alarms that are tested and chimneys in use should be swept regularly.

Chimney pointing should also be checked out by an expert in a bid to prevent any sparks or flames coming through.