Neighbours rally to help residents following blaze drama at cottages

Witts End, Eversholt fire. Photos: Beds Fire Service
Witts End, Eversholt fire. Photos: Beds Fire Service
  • Crews call for back-up after arriving at blaze in village
  • Firefighters withdrawn from inside buildings due to concerns about a potential unstable chimney stack
  • Neighbours rally round to look after residents affected
  • Fire chief points out how neither cottage had smoke alarm

An elderly woman had to be treated for inhaling smoke after a “complicated” fire which left two semi-detached cottages severely damaged.

When the first fire appliance from Ampthill arrived at the properties in Witts End, Eversholt at 10.07pm on Friday, crews found the roof of the cottages well alight and called for three more pumps to support them from Ampthill and Toddington and the Luton aerial platform and a water carrier from Toddington.

Witts End, Eversholt fire. Photos: Beds Fire Service

Witts End, Eversholt fire. Photos: Beds Fire Service

Firefighters fought the fire in the roof space from both the ground and the aerial platform pouring water into the burning building. At one point firefighters wearing breathing apparatus were withdrawn from the working inside the buildings due to concerns about a potential unstable chimney stack and the safety of the first floor ceiling.

They continued to use the aerial platform to fight the blaze, removing a number of roof tiles to gain better access to the roof space.

By the early hours of the morning of Saturday (May 16), the fire was under control and extinguished.

The cottages suffered 100% damage to the roof and damage to the first floor and first floor ceilings, the ground floor also suffered from water damage due to burst water main pipes.

An elderly woman was treated by ambulance crews for smoke inhalation. The Red Cross Fire Victim Support was called in to assist in the care of those affected by the fire.

The origin of the initial blaze was a wood burner causing the roof to catch fire.

The fire service was due to re-inspect the scene at 8am Saturday but received a call from a homeowner at 6.30am that the fire appeared to have re-ignited.

Two fire engines, the aerial platform and Operational Support Unit were sent to the scene. A small area of the roof was extinguished by the crews, who remained on scene assist the owner in the removal and recovery of valuables and to clear further areas of the roof that could be accessed in daylight conditions.

Station Commander Jason Tai said: “All crews who attended the incident worked extremely hard in bringing the initial blaze quickly under control and prevent further spread to the floors below and neighbouring buildings.

“Neither property had a smoke alarm and the owners were only alerted by smelling smoke. A little while later and they could have been asleep.

“Even though the property is severely damaged, the crew’s efforts certainly limited this to the roof area in terms of fire spread, unfortunately subsequent collapse of internal ceilings caused further damage.

“The surrounding community and neighbours rallied together to look after the residents and assisted the fire service with removal of valuables.

“This type of fire is complicated because access was extremely limited by the fire’s location in the roof, the risk of collapse of the remaining roof structure, and any of the four chimney stacks, and by nature of old buildings’ construction, which left voids that can hide the spread of fire from view.

“Firefighters had to remove the tiles to gain access to the fire initially and had to fight it externally to begin with. But after risk assessment made a decision to fight internally once clear.”