Historic cottage up in flames

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A MARCH cottage owner was left homeless after fire swept through his historic home this afternoon (Tuesday)

Hundreds of on-lookers lined the Town Bridge and watched as fire crews battled the flames using water pumped from the River Nene.

Firefighters from March, Chatteris and Wisbech used water jets to douse the fire as it ripped through the roof of the cottage, believed to be at least 200 years old, on Nene Parade close to the town centre.

The town centre was cordoned off with traffic diverted around the by-pass.

Smoke engulfed the entire town centre as the blaze sent flames shooting from the windows and threatening adjacent premises.

As the fire crews battled the blaze, the cause of which is not yet known, police officers started to move the crowds of on-lookers away from the Town Hall side of the river amid fears there were Butane gas cylinders in the house.

The alarm was raised by a passer-by shortly after 3.30pm. One youngster who was on his way home from school at the time described how he heard the windows crack as he walked past.

Mel Saxby, who lives in a property a few doors up from the blaze, told how she feared her own home was on fire as she returned from the town.

“I could smell smoke, but couldn’t see anything, and then I saw the smoke and at first it looked as if it could be coming from my house so I ran up the road to see what was happening.”

She believed the cottage owner was out at the time of the fire and had taken refuge in the nearby Ship Inn while the emergency services dealt with the incident.

However, while he was safe it is believed his dog may have been lost in the fire.

At one point the George Campbell leisure centre was closed because of problems with smoke coming in through the vents as it swept over the town and into the park.

In fact the smoke spread across West End Park and over the by-pass as the fire burnt its way through the cottage, which appears to have been completely gutted by the blaze.