Owners must reduce risks of thatch fires

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THATCH fires have reached such a ‘ridiculous’ number in Suffolk that a historic buildings society has organised a one-day conference for owners.

The Suffolk Preservation Society says there have been 12 thatch fires in the county in the past year. As a result, it has organised a conference at Lavenham Village Hall on Saturday, October 15, called Fire and Thatch: a burning issue, with speakers including fire fighters and investigators, insurers, thatchers and flue and stove experts.

Society director Simon Cairns said: “We perceive it as being a major issue in Suffolk where the number of thatch fires is getting ridiculous.

“When any building burns it’s a tragedy both in human terms and in loss of property. But when it’s the roof of a building of historic interest it’s often a total loss.”

The society says the average cost of repairing a conventional roof is £51,000 but for thatch it is £350,000.

Mr Cairns said: “The increase is down to a number of factors, which the conference needs to examine, but we need to help people minimise their risk. These buildings have survived since medieval times and if the risk is managed they’ll still be here in another 700 years.”

The society feels one factor is more people using wood burners to cut fuel costs. Where open fires draw cool air from the room, a modern wood stove does not.

Mr Cairns said: “The temperature up there can reach 600 degrees and thatch chars at 200. We hear horrendous stories about unlined chimneys with log burners installed 30 years ago and never maintained.”

Tickets are £25 to society members and £35 to non members. Bookings can be made on 01787 247179 or sps@suffolksociety.org