Great Sampford couple return home after thatched roof fire which destroyed their house a year ago
PUBLISHED: 09:00 08 January 2017 | UPDATED: 09:44 09 January 2017
A Great Sampford family who saw their thatched cottage destroyed by fire a year ago were able to return home in time for their Christmas dinner.
John and Caroline Smith, of Finchingfield Road, had been living in an annex in their garden for the past year after the blaze which started on the roof and swept through their cottage on January 18, 2016.
It took 50 firefighters nearly four hours to extinguish the blaze, which caused serious structural damage to beams and gutted the centre of the house.
The fire was caused by a spark from the chimney, and the couple have since raised the height of their chimney stack as an added precaution so that embers are more likely to die out before they settle.
Caroline said: “We had no idea our house was on fire. I was cooking dinner and someone knocked on the door to tell us the roof was alight and that we needed to get out.
“The worst thing was watching the house burn and not being able to do anything about it. The fire service was amazing and managed to save both ends of the house but the centre core was destroyed.
“There was structural damage to the beams, which needed to be replaced, and the middle section of the house was rebuilt.”
As well as Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, the couple, who have two sons, Cameron, 24, and Kieron, 22, also paid tribute to the Great Sampford community, who helped move their belongings, and insurers NFU Mutual in Takeley.
Caroline said: “From supporting us to arrange building consent to making sure we had our cooker installed in time for Christmas dinner, the NFU Mutual staff have been with us every step of the way.
“Pickfords builders in Great Dunmow were also superb, including sourcing the oven, and Cunningham Lindsey loss adjusters were wonderful negotiators.
“With the new oven installed it was a dream to be back in the house for Christmas.”
Senior agent for NFU Mutual, Kayleigh Mackness, said: “We are so pleased that the Smith family were home for Christmas.
“While thatched homes are no more likely to catch fire than homes with a conventional roof, if they do ignite the fire is very difficult to control and the results can be devastating.
“This case highlights how important it is to check your building is properly insured, particularly if you live in a thatched property.”