A COMMUNITY are rallying around to help a family made homeless by a thatch fire in Bondleigh.

The John family have been made homeless after their thatched cottage in the village went up in flames last week.

Friend Pete Rice, of Lapford, posted an appeal on Facebook asking for landlords to rehouse Natalie and Nick John and their young daughter, whose home was partially destroyed by fire overnight on Wednesday to Thursday, October 4 to 5 last week. The blaze was tackled by fire crews from across Devon and beyond.

Mr and Mrs John are being temporarily rehoused in a hotel in Plymouth while their young daughter is being looked after by family members but no accommodation has been found for them closer to home.

Mr Rice wrote: ‘We are currently looking for housing for the John family who sadly lost their home in the thatch fire. Unfortunately, the housing department can only offer a hotel in Plymouth or the other side of Exeter.

‘This family needs to stay in the local area for work and their family support network after this tragic event.’

He appealed for any landlords who could offer the family temporary accommodation to come forward.

‘It does not need to be furnished, as with the power of Facebook and the fantastic generosity of the local community, household goods are already being collected,’ he wrote. ‘Currently Natalie and Nick are in a hotel and their little girl is staying with a family member.'

He added: ‘They need to be together in a home, not a hotel.’

Firefighters were on the scene all night tackling the blaze. They fought to save the thatch, pulling straw from the roof and dousing it with high pressure jets and air foam jets.

The John family raised the alarm themselves at 6.20pm on Wednesday last week, alerting Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service by mobile phone. They had got themselves out of the house before crews arrived.

A total of 15 fire engines were involved, with crews attending from Tavistock, Okehampton, Hatherleigh, North Tawton, Chulmleigh, Chagford, Moretonhampstead and Torrington, as well as Exeter, Ivybridge, Honiton in east Devon and even Wellington in Somerset.

Firefighters, wearing breathing apparatus, entered the building to fight the fire and bring out as much furniture and belongings as they could. An appeal has been launched in the community to source furniture from elsewhere.

From the outside of the building, meanwhile, they worked from a raised platform and ladders to rake thatch from the roof in an effort to stop the blaze from spreading.

By dawn on Thursday, October 5, the fire had been fully brought under control, with just a few embers being dampened down.

Among the firefighters who fought the blaze were retained crew from Tavistock Fire Station. They worked hard all night stripping thatch from the roof, returning home at 7.30am with a day’s work ahead of them.

A fire service spokesman said that investigators had concluded that the fire had started accidentally.

The occupants have been unable to live in the house since the fire, and are now facing a major restoration project, with about 60 per cent of the roof destroyed and the upstairs gutted by the fire, as well as significant damage to the ground floor.