Couple escape as flames ravage remote downland home

Firefighter Pup Upton, the Borough Commander for Wealden
Firefighter Pup Upton, the Borough Commander for Wealden

Two people escaped a serious fire which destroyed their remote downland home above Plumpton on Wednesday.

The couple, who are believed to be tenants, were inside the bungalow when a smoke alarm alerted them to the blaze.

They evacuated the building, at the top of Streat Bostall, and called the emergency services.

The alarm was raised shortly before 4.30am on Wednesday and firefighters spent most of the day tackling the blaze.

They had to contend with strong winds which fanned the flames and the narrow winding track to the property near the South Downs Way.

Firefighters used a water carrier to ferry water from Plumpton College at the bottom of the hill.

Crews from Barcombe, Lewes, Brighton, Newhaven and Uckfield attended the scene of the fire, which is believed to have started in the garage area of the property and quickly spread to the main building.

Pup Upton, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service’s Borough Commander for Wealden, said on Wednesday: “At the height of the fire we had five fire engines and two water carriers.

“Being on top of a hill there was always going to be an issue with water supply.

“The building has been totally destroyed by fire. In these windy conditions the fire very quickly spread.

“The occupants of the house were alerted by a working smoke alarm, which is one of the reasons why we advocated the installation of smokes alarms in domestic properties.

“They were alerted, could see there was an already developed fire, left the premises and called 999.”

He continued: “Fairly quickly, local crews from Lewes and Barcombe were confronted with a rapidly developing fire, which was being wind-driven.

“The fire quickly spread into the roof causing its collapse and the collapse of the first floor into the ground floor.

“We are now dealing with localised hotspots within the collapsed structure.

“At this stage it is not being treated as suspicious, and the cause of fire has not been determined. A fire investigation officer will be arriving to make early external assessments.”

Witnesses later said the charred building had its roof missing and beams were exposed to the elements.

It is understood building specialists from Lewes District Council attended the scene to assess whether unsupported chimney stacks were safe.