Devastating house fire started after initial blaze re-ignited, investigation finds

PUBLISHED: 10:27 12 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:27 12 April 2018

The two houses following the fire. Picture: DANNY LOO

The two houses following the fire. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

A fire that devastated a Welwyn Garden City house started after an earlier blaze re-ignited, the fire service has said.

Peter and Joy Butcher with their dog Portia. Picture: DANNY LOOPeter and Joy Butcher with their dog Portia. Picture: DANNY LOO

St Audreys Green residents watched on in horror as a blaze ripped through the house at around 3.30pm on Saturday, March 24.

Around an hour later, Peter and Joy Butcher, whose council house adjoins the property, were told by Herts Fire and Rescue officers that it was safe to return, but at 8.30pm another fire was spotted in their neighbour’s roof.

A fire service spokeswoman said: “Crews extinguished a second fire and a further fire investigation was carried out.

“This concluded that the cause of the subsequent fire was down to smouldering remains that had entered around the soffit board, and which would not have been obvious.

“After the first fire the re-inspecting crew spent some time at the scene looking for and extinguishing ‘hotspots’.”

She added this a challenging task and even with modern technology it can be difficult to ensure all voids have been accessed.

Peter, 59, told the WHT: “We couldn’t believe that it started up again.

“Once they said we could all go back in you would have thought it was all OK. We have never known a fire to be put out and then reignite.”

He added that the first blaze only inflicted some smoke damage, but the second melted the water tank – causing water to flood through the property.

Peter and Joy had only just completed a £2k refurbishment, and have since been forced to live with relatives and at a hotel.

“I was going to say these things happen, but they don’t really,” Peter added.

The fire service spokeswoman said: “Instances of re-ignition are infrequent within Herts Fire and Rescue Service.

“Most fire incidents are successfully extinguished by the first attending crews, with re-inspections in the hours, or even days after the initial attendance used for incidents of a more complex nature.

“Keeping Hertfordshire safe is paramount for the service and, following these fires, we have carried out a thorough investigation into these events. Any learning points identified will be taken forward and actioned.”

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