Young Family Lose Everything in Thatch Fire

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service has attended a serious fire at a thatched cottage in Woodgreen near Fordingbridge.

The alarm was raised at 00:41 on Thursday, 11 November 2010 and Control operators swiftly mobilised crews from across the New Forest to tackle the blaze.

Firefighters from Fordingbridge, Ringwood, New Milton and Burley attended the incident and assistance was also provided from across the Wiltshire and Dorset borders, with both Salisbury and Cranbourne fire crews in attendance. 

Ancillary appliances included water carriers from Fordingbridge and Lyndhurst, the Multi-Role Vehicle from Eastleigh, St Mary’s Special Equipment Unit, as well as the Incident Command Unit, Command Support provided by Beaulieu.

With additional support staff in attendance, such as the Duty Operational Equipment Technician, in total over 80 fire service personnel tackled the challenging incident.  

Red Cross fire and emergency support service volunteers Andrew Starbuck, Colin Manzalaoui and Ray Gosling also responded to the shout direct from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service control.

They were there to provide emotional and practical support to the occupiers of the thatched cottage, a young couple and their two young children.

Volunteer of 12 years Andrew (47) said:

“When we arrived the cottage residents were with a neighbour.  The father had tried to fight the fire and suffered burns to his foot, so we got him seen by paramedics at the scene.”

The FESS crews supplied essentials to the family, including nappies, clothes and toiletries and offered guidance about how to begin the process of moving on from the fire and signposted them to other helpful agencies."

Andrew, from Sparsholt, added:

“It was a rented property but the family lost all their belongings.  Very often when people are in shock the impact of what has happened will hit them a day, or even a week after the incident. We gave the family some advice on how to deal with the emotional side of going through a house fire.”

As well as immediate assistance at the scene, Red Cross volunteers can contact a victim’s insurance company, arrange alternative accommodation, help to secure a property and sort out utilities.

Fire crews remain on the scene today and Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s specialist Urban Search and Rescue team are now carrying out shoring operations, with two covering jets in use.  A fire investigation will establish the cause of the incident.

Area Manager Andy Bowers of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service paid tribute to the firefighters. He said:

“Both the roof and first floor of the thatched cottage were well alight when our fire crews first arrived on the scene. The incident could potentially have been much worse though, had crews not acted so quickly and efficiently, with adjacent properties being so close. As with most thatched property fires, the fire spread very quickly and unfortunately both the roof and first floor were severely damaged. Firefighters from Hampshire, Wiltshire, and Dorset worked closely together to salvage contents from the ground floor of the property.

“I would also like to acknowledge the involvement of the Fire and Emergency Support Service (FESS), which is delivered by trained British Red Cross volunteers, in providing support to the residents affected by this incident.”

Around 90 per cent of Hampshire is rural and, as such, there are considerable numbers of thatched properties in the county. A thatched roof is always at risk from fire and once a fire has taken hold in a thatch it will spread rapidly. The commonest causes of fire in a thatched building are faulty flues, stray sparks from the chimney, electrical faults, lightening affecting the television aerial, discarded cigarettes, and garden bonfires.

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service offers the following advice to thatched property householders:

Never store combustible materials in the roof space

Make sure you have your chimney swept regularly to prevent a build-up of soot deposits

Ensure that the top of the chimney stack is at least five feet above the thatch, allowing sparks to escape and die-out before they settle on the thatch

Have your chimney checked to ensure that the brick or stone work is in good condition, especially where it passes through the thatch

A smoke detector should be provided in the roof space and linked to others in your home. Most thatch fires start in the roof space and due to the thickness may not be apparent for many hours. With a working smoke alarm, a fire in the roof space will be detected and the warning will be given throughout the house. Smoke detectors are recommended for all rooms except kitchens and bathrooms

Make sure all your family know what to do in the event of a fire and how to escape safely. Your fire plan should include: planning your escape routes, keeping exits clear, and ensuring everyone knows where to find door and window keys. In case of fire, the most important advice is to get out, stay out and call the fire service out.

When calling Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service on 999, you must mention that the fire involves a thatched property

If your property is off the highway send someone to the junction with the public road to direct responding crews. Ensure the access to your property is wide and free from overhead obstruction to allow a fire engine to approach close to the property

Keep a note by telephone of your address, and any helpful landmarks and, if especially remote, your six figure Ordnance Survey map reference.

Experience has shown that people are more aware of the dangers of fire and more responsive to advice in the aftermath of a fire in their own residential area. Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service will therefore be visiting premises in the close vicinity of this incident to provide fire safety advice to local residents.