EXCLUSIVE Owners of historic £1million thatched cottage which burned down in fire caused by sparks from neighbour’s stove launch legal action for £415,000 compensation

The owners of a historic £1million thatched cottage which was completely destroyed in a fire caused by sparks from a neighbour’s stove are suing for compensation

Paul and Lynda Ben-David are demanding more than £415,000 after their home in Lower Froyle, Alton, Hampshire, went up in flames in November 2017. 

The inferno, which required more than 70 firefighters from 19 stations across southern England to bring under control, destroyed an entire row of cottages including the home of Mr and Mrs Ben-David.

The blaze initially broke out in a cottage belonging to retired hotelier Gordon Mitchell and his partner, who lived immediately next door to the couple, before rapidly spreading.

A lawsuit claims that a flue outlet over the roof of their neighbour’s Grade II listed 18th century property was installed too low and this contributed to the fire.

The £1million cottage belonging to Paul and Lynda Ben-David in Alton, Hampshire, went up in flames in November 2017

The row of cottages went up in flames after a spark from a neighbour’s stove caught in the thatched roof

Firefighters from 13 stations across southern England were called to battle the inferno

The flue and a stove were installed in Mr Mitchell’s home by a company called Farnham Stoves Ltd, which carried out the work in 2013. 

It has since been dissolved but Mr and Mrs Ben-David, both aged 73 are taking legal action against its insurer, Hiscox Insurance Co.

In court documents, they allege that Farnham had a duty of care to ensure their work conformed to correct standards and good practice, to avoid foreseeable damage but breached its duties and failed to comply with building regulations by not installing the flue high enough.

They maintain that because of the company’s breach of duty and negligence, their home was completely destroyed.

After fighting the blaze for several hours, it was eventually extinguished shortly before 5am.

Mr Mitchell, 76 was only alerted to the fire after a neighbour tapped loudly on his window, enabling him and his partner to escape.

Speaking at the time, he said: ‘It’s all gone. Everything.’

Neighbours from around the quiet country village arrived at the scene with wheelbarrows and boxes to help salvage what they could from the wreckage.

Firefighters work late into the night to battle the blaze, which saw residents evacuated to safety

Firefighters walk through the charred remains of one of the cottages which was completely destroyed by the fire

The owners of the one of the cottages are suing the insurers of the firm which installed the stove for damages

A neighbour rang the emergency services after spotting a small fire on the roof of one of the cottages, with the blaze quickly spreading

Mr Mitchell added: ‘My next door neighbour phoned the fire brigade. We were in and didn’t know the roof was ablaze, but he saw the flames up on the roof.

‘He phoned the fire brigade and knocked on our window and said, ‘you’ve got a fire on your roof.’ We reckon that was within minutes of it starting.

‘The fire brigade came very promptly which was remarkable in a village.

‘At the moment we are just getting out of it what we can. We saved most of the ground floor stuff but the first floor… just went.’

After extinguishing the blaze, firefighters spent several hours on the scene.

Bruce Gordon, station commander for East Hampshire Fire Service said at the time: ‘They are basically salvaging and looking for anything of sentimental value, in particular a ring the lady is missing. Today they are making sure it is safe and salvaging as much as they can.’

Following the blaze, a spokesman for Hampshire Fire and Rescue service said: ‘Firefighters responded to a fire in the thatched roof of a property in Froyle Lane, Alton.

‘Crews attended from Farnham, Alton, Rushmoor, Guildford, Basingstoke, Fleet, Hartley Witney, Eastleigh, Liphook, Yateley, Alresford, Bordon, Droxford, Kingsclere, Cosham, Grayshott, Hightown, Sutton Scotney and Bishops Waltham during the incident.

‘The roof and first floor of the detached two storey building was 100 per cent destroyed by fire and the ground floor was 100 per cent destroyed by fire, smoke and water.

‘The fire was tackled with 12 breathing apparatus, four jets and the use of one aerial ladder platform. No one was harmed or injured during the incident. Crews have remained at the scene to damp down and turn over the area to ensure scene safety. The stop came in at 4.59am.’

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