Family left homeless after blaze rips through cottage

A WOMAN and two children were forced to flee their home after it was destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve.

More than 50 firefighters from Essex and Suffolk tackled the blaze in an attempt to save the end-terrace thatched roof cottage in Withermarsh Green, near Stoke-by-Nayland, but were unable to do so.

Crews were called to the incident at around 2pm on Friday after reports of a chimney fire.

Once at the scene, firefighters quickly realised more help was needed as the blaze spread along the roof, sending plumes of smoke into the air.

Matt Barber, watch manager for Hadleigh Fire Station, who was one of the first to arrive at the fire, said: “We brought two appliances but it was clear this was going to be a major job as the flames had got hold of the entire cottage.

“We then got to work accounting for everyone and trying to save anything we could.”

Mr Barber said that the woman and two children who rent the 100-year-old cottage were able to get out safely and people living in the neighbouring houses were evacuated.

“Thankfully, we did not have any fatalities and, despite the dangers, we managed to get most of the family’s possessions out – including Christmas presents,” he said.

Crews used water from a nearby river and reservoir to battle the fire and also shut roads around the village.

Firefighters were able to save the house next door where flames had spread too, but the thatched roof of the end-terrace collapsed, destroying the home.

The fire was contained at around 4.45pm and a fire break set up between the thatched property and two adjoining homes, although crews remained at the house until 3am on Christmas Day.