Thursday, February 7, 2013
Crews from around Devon scrambled to A39 drama near Bideford.
EIGHTY firefighters from all over Devon have been battling a blaze at a thatched cottage on the A39 near Bideford this morning (Thursday).
A total of 15 fire engines were scrambled to the scene at Downwater Cottages at Horns Cross just before 4am.
Crews from Bideford, Barnstaple, Hartland, Ilfracombe, Hatherleigh, Holsworthy, South Molton, Appledore, Torrington, and Honiton have spent hours fighting the fire, around a mile from The Hoops Inn and Country House Hotel.
They found the property well alight and got to work using two hose reel jets, covering jets and compressed foam to control the blaze.
The fire is understood to have broken out in a thatched part of roof that straddles the middle part of two terraced cottages, with tiled roofs either end of the building.
The alarm was raised by the occupants of one cottage shortly after 4am this morning. It is understood that the occupants of the second cottage were not present at the time of the fire.
No injuries have been reported.
At 6.05am, it was reported steady progress was being made with salvage operations and fighting the fire.
At 7am, fire crews reported the Red Cross Fire and Emergency Support Service had attended the scene to assist the home owner.
A building inspector has been requested to attend as crews continue to make steady progress while wearing breathing apparatus.
Western Power attended the incident to isolate electrics to the property.
When the Gazette arrived on the scene at 7.45am, the building was still smouldering and firefighters were being stood down.
By 8.20am incident commander Jeff Harding from Barnstaple said the blaze was ‘under control’.
He said: “The fire was already in the roof when we arrived and at that stage our focus was on trying to contain the fire and to salvage as many personnel possessions and mementoes as possible.
“The building is probably four-or-five-hundred years old with extensions on either side. The thatched roof has been totally destroyed with some damage to the first floor.
“We used a compressed air foam system which creates a lot of bubbles and is five times better than water in this type of fire as it absorbs more.
“Crews worked extremely hard to focus on trying to salvage as many of the people’s personal belongings and mementos while still trying to put out the fire and limit damage to the property.
“There is a bit of risk to do that and I am very proud of them.”
The A39 remains closed in both directions between the junctions at Clovelly Road and Abbotsham and at Bucks Cross. Diversions are in place.
Check back for more as we have it.
UPDATE 10.10am: Fire service report that steady progress is being made and use of breathing apparatus has been discontinued. One hose reel is still in use.
UPDATE 1.45pm: Crews confirmed full details of the fire which involved two properties measuring approximately 23m by 5m. The property was 70 per cent damaged; the roof was completely destroyed, the first floor severely damaged and the ground floor slightly damaged by the fire.
The whole property was water damaged after crews used two hose reels, two covering jets, and compressed air foam to fight the blaze.
The fire service reported that working smoke alarms were fitted in the property.
The fire was believed to be accidental and further investigation of the chimney will take place along with the insurance investigations.
Incident commander Jeff Harding added: “The fire was in the roof, over two houses with a shared roof space.
“We knew it was in the roof and we knew we could not tackle it at that point because if we tried we would have lost the building.
“Our focus was on moving the personal belongings of the occupier while trying to stop the fire spreading into the extensions either side of the thatched property.
“I am really proud of what the crews here have done and how hard they have worked to save the extensions and as many belongings as possible.
”The British Red Cross were wonderful as before they arrived the couple just had to sit in their car watching their home burning. We were looking after them, but with the arrival of the British Red Cross they were moved away from the scene to be in the warm with a cup of tea and be supported.”