Thatch fire during Saturday's FBU strike

A thatched property in Fyfield, near Pewsey has been significantly damaged by fire.

Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service was called to the house at 5.45pm yesterday evening and eight fire engines were sent from around the county.

Unfortunately, there was a very strong wind at the time of the fire, and this caused the flames to spread rapidly throughout the roof and first floor.

Area Manager Julian Parsons said: “Thatch fires are notoriously difficult to deal with and, if the fire has spread throughout the roof before the firefighting operations begins, there is little we can do to save the property. The strong winds on Saturday night fanned the flames to the extent that the damage was beyond control very quickly.”

Crews from Marlborough, Devizes (two), Amesbury, Wilton, Westbury, Malmesbury and Royal Wootton Bassett, supported by a 4x4 pump from Ludgershall and a water carrier from Wilton, were mobilised at the outset. The attendance was dropped to five pumps by 9.30pm and a three pump relief came into effect just after 10pm, again supported by a water carrier.

AM Parsons said: “The industrial action by members of the Fire Brigades’ Union had an impact on where the supporting appliances came from, but the initial attendance was close to what we would normally expect, with the crew from Marlborough being on scene within 14 minutes of the 999 call being received – our response target for such a remote location is 20 minutes.”

He added: “Although we had half of our available appliances committed to this fire for some time, we were able to maintain an emergency response for the rest of the county. We were helped by our colleagues in Dorset, who sent a crew from Cranborne into Wilton to provide extra resilience, and Hampshire brought the crew from Fordingbridge onto station so that they could respond more quickly into the Salisbury area if needed.”

Between 6pm and 10pm, when the industrial action was underway, the Service also dealt with a carbon monoxide alarm in Warminster, minor flooding in Devizes, a tumble dryer fire in Sherston that was out on arrival and a false alarm in Lacock.

Crews at ten of Wiltshire’s 24 fire stations were unavailable to respond to incidents during the strike, but the Service had contingency plans in place to maintain cover across the county using on-call firefighters and alternative locations as appropriate. As a result, there were 11 appliances available ‘on station’ and a further five ‘on call’.

As of 10pm, all striking crews returned to duty.

AM Parsons said: “While this fire undoubtedly challenged us during the strike, I am very proud of the professionalism shown by our available personnel.”

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