Owner watches in horror as fire engulfs thatched house
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
The owner of a fire-ravaged thatched house, thought the first to be built in a Broads village, has shared his heartbreak.
Adrian Holden said it felt "unreal" as he watched 65 firefighters battle thick smoke to save his Grade II-listed home, Gables Farm, in Martham.
Having owned it for 12 years, it was currently used as a holiday let, but had burned down before in around 1991 he said.
The couple staying inside escaped before firefighters arrived on scene, he said.
Ten crews rushed to the scene in Back Lane, Martham at around 11.30am on Thursday to reports of a fire in the thatched roof of the former farmhouse, which dates from the mid 18th century.
Neighbours were alerted but not evacuated from their homes.
Roads heading towards the village were closed by police, who were allowing access to those heading to the surgery.
Assistant chief officer for Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service Scott Norman said crews were likely to be on scene well into the evening.
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He said they were working hard both inside and out of the house - taking a two-pronged approach in both firefighting and salvaging any valuables.
As crews tackled the blaze chairs, tables, mirrors, ornaments, books and much more piled up on the verge outside.
By around 2pm the fire was still not under control with crews moving to stripping the thatch to prevent the blaze from spreading to other parts of the roof.
Meanwhile a farmer offered to collect and store all Mr Holden's possessions, triggering a community effort to load the items on to a trailer.
Mr Holden, who lives in the village, hailed the support from locals in helping with the heavy lifting, and also the large response from the fire service which included a hydraulic platform and water carrier as well as multiple ambulances.
He said he felt "helpless" amid the whirl of activity and that what was unfolding "didn't seem real".
He added that when he had bought the house he had been told it was the first one to be built in the village.
So far it looked as if the fire had started in a shed at the back and spread to the roof, but an investigation would be launched to pinpoint the exact cause.
People at the scene said they were saddened to see the scale of the devastation, adding that it was good to see the village had rallied round and "mucked in" with helping to save the contents.
One man said it was a listed building and that he understood it was fully booked for the summer.
An environmental protection officer was also on scene to ensure water did not run off into the drains and pollute the Broad.
People are being told to avoid the area with fire crews set to be on scene late into the evening and keeping a close eye for some time after the fire is out, with a risk of small embers still burning.