FIREFIGHTERS managed to save hundreds of priceless photos from a burning thatched cottage in Wepham before it was destroyed last night (Wendesday, February 27).
Crews spent the best part of an hour clearing out a vast majority of the homeowner’s treasured items, furniture and clothes before her home, in Main Street, was levelled by the inferno.
Around eight crews from across the county did everything they could to save the historic home on the outskirts of Arundel but said that once the fire had caught there was little they could do but let it run its course.
Officers used high-pressure pumps packed with a special foam to delay the blaze on the thatched rood, while they cleared the cottage.
Deputy district commander of Worthing and Adur, Roy Barraclough, who was one of the first firefighters on the scene, described the event as a “major incident”.
He said: “Thatched cottages fires are always particularly challenging. They’re always very, very difficult to get to.
“What we managed to do is to use a foam on the top of the thatching to slow the spread of the fire.
“We then managed to get the woman’s possessions out of her house – things like photos, furniture, clothes. We did this for about an hour.
“But it’s little consolation. We know that as soon as fire ignites in thatching it normally means that, sadly, the whole property is going to be destroyed.
“It’s very unsatisfying work. People believe that because we are on the scene we will be able to save the property – and normally this is the case.
“But on this occasion there was nothing else we could do except contain the fire and let it run its course.”
Roy believes the fire ignited from the chimney.
“This woman said that she regularly gets her chimney swept but sometimes just the sheer heat of the stack can be enough to ignite a small fire,” he said.
A warning has now gone out for homeowners to have their chimneys swept and smoke alarms tested.
No one was injured in last night’s fire.
Crews remain on the scene this morning damping down the wrecked cottage.