News: New stoves and drought threaten thatch heritage

Dry conditions and new highly efficient fuel burning stoves are threatening to destroy the country’s thatched cottage heritage.

The Local Government Association, which works with local authorities in England and Wales, said that councils are warning thatch cottage home owners of the dangers and issuing advice on fire prevention.

The warning comes after headline-hitting blazes at the thatched cottage homes of film director Ken Russell and the father of Hollyoaks soap star Ali Bastain.

The number of thatch fires in Suffolk has more than doubled in the last two years, from nine to twenty. The drought coupled with the installation of new efficient fuel burning stoves, which operate for much longer lengths of time and through out the night, have led to an increasing number of fires.

Local authorities are now advising thatch cottage residents to fit thermometers in the thatch surrounding their property’s chimney breast to monitor its temperature. High temperatures and very dry thatch mean it can easily combust.

Gary Phillips, assistant fire chief at Suffolk County Council, said: "There has been a worrying increase in thatch fires in Suffolk this year. Because of this, we are proactively engaging with people who live in thatched properties to try to prevent thatch fires in the future."

"We have staged a series of successful seminars where we have spoken to hundreds of people about fire prevention specifically aimed at thatch fires. This has been an excellent opportunity for us to offer tailored advice on the best measures which can be put in place to reduce the risk for themselves and their property."

Cllr Caroline Seymour, deputy chair of the Local Government Association Safer Communities Board, said: "Thatched cottages are an important part of our country’s heritage and councils and fire services are determined to do all they can to help preserve this very beautiful feature of our country landscape."

"By just following some simple steps thatch cottage property owners can safeguard their homes and our country’s heritage."

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