Horns Cross blaze couple ‘awoken by cat’

Up to 80 firefighters from all over North, East and West Devon have been battling a fire at a thatch

Up to 80 firefighters from all over North, East and West Devon have been battling a fire at a thatched cottage at Horns Cross, near Bideford, this morning (Thursday). - Credit: Archant

Couple escape thatched cottage fire after pet alerts them to danger.

Up to 80 firefighters from all over North, East and West Devon have been battling a fire at a thatch

Up to 80 firefighters from all over North, East and West Devon have been battling a fire at a thatched cottage at Horns Cross, near Bideford, this morning (Thursday). - Credit: Archant

A COUPLE have escaped a fire at a thatched cottage after being woken up by their cat.

Up to 80 firefighters from all over North, East and West Devon have been battling a fire at a thatch

Up to 80 firefighters from all over North, East and West Devon have been battling a fire at a thatched cottage at Horns Cross, near Bideford, this morning (Thursday). - Credit: Archant

Maxine Wilcox, 68, said she was awoken by the animal at about 4am when she noticed flames engulfing the roof of her thatched cottage at Horns Cross, near Bideford, earlier this morning (Thursday).

Up to 80 firefighters from all over North, East and West Devon have been battling a fire at a thatch

Up to 80 firefighters from all over North, East and West Devon have been battling a fire at a thatched cottage at Horns Cross, near Bideford, this morning (Thursday). - Credit: Archant

Mrs Wilcox and husband Jim managed to flee the property and raise the alarm, sparking a response from 15 fire crews from as far afield as Ilfracombe and Honiton.

Around 80 firefighters from all over the county have spent hours fighting the fire on the A39, around a mile from The Hoops Inn and Country House Hotel. The fire is now under control and crews say ‘steady progress’ is being made.


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Mrs Wilcox said: “It has been such a shock this morning. As soon as we realised what was happening we got out of the cottage and called the fire brigade. I’m just glad the cat woke me up.”

The couple are currently being supported by volunteers from the British Red Cross fire and emergency support service (FESS), who were among the first on the scene after being called on by fire crews.

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Mr and Mrs Wilcox waited outside while firefighters tackled the blaze and salvaged as much of their belongings as they could.

“It was absolutely freezing outside so it was nice to be able to get into the Red Cross vehicle” said Mrs Wilcox.

“It was lovely and warm and the chaps made us a cup of coffee. Both Keith and Nathan are very friendly and chatty and they have been able to put us at ease.

“I really appreciate and admire them very much. The Red Cross do such a brilliant job – they really are wonderful.”

Volunteers, Keith Finch and Nathan Dale responded to the call in a customised Red Cross vehicle complete with a shower, cooker, kettle and emergency supplies, to provide immediate care, refreshments, advice and a sympathetic ear to the couple.

Keith, who has been a volunteer with the Red Cross FESS service since it launched ten years ago, said: “The fire service are doing a fantastic job here this morning.

“They have been able to salvage probably 95 per cent of the couple’s belonging. Obviously Mr and Mrs Wilcox are very upset and shocked, but they are both safe and well, which is the important thing.”

Mike Burroughs, fire protection support officer from Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The Red Cross volunteers provide an invaluable service to people at a time of great emotional need and stress.

“When they are looking after the families, it means the firefighters have one less factor to consider.”

The 24 hour, 365 day a year service, which operates from Plymouth, covers the whole of Devon.

Red Cross FESS co-ordinator Malcolm Cook said: “Our volunteers make a real difference to people who may have lost everything at the moment they are needed the most.

“We are always looking for new volunteers based in the Plymouth area, so if anyone is interested in learning more about the service please contact the Red Cross.”

For people who want to find out more about the role and the training provided, contact Malcolm Cook on 07710 733229 or email mcook@redcross.org.uk

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