A COUPLE have spoken of their shock after their cottage was ravaged by fire when the thatched roof caught alight.

Up to 80 firefighters tackled the blaze at Downwater Cottages in Horns Cross, near Bideford, in the early hours of this morning, Friday, February 8.

Maxine Wilcox said she noticed the roof was on fire after being woken by her cat at 4am.

The couple immediately left the property and called Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, which sent a total of 15 fire appliances to the scene.

The roof was completely destroyed by fire, with the first floor being severely damaged and the ground floor suffering slight damage.

All the property is now water damaged.

Jeff Harding, incident commander, said: “The fire was in the roof, over two houses with a shared roof space. We knew it was in the roof and we knew we could not tackle it at that point because if we tried we would have lost the building.

“Our focus was on moving the personal belongings of the occupier while trying to stop the fire spreading into the extensions either side of the thatched property.

“I am really proud of what the crews here have done and how hard they have worked to save the extensions and as many belongings as possible.”

Volunteers from the British Red Cross were called to look after the welfare of Mr and Mrs Wilcox while firefighters continued to tackle the blaze.

Maxine said: “It has been such a shock this morning. As soon as we realised what was happening we got out of the cottage and called the fire brigade. I’m just glad the cat woke me up.”

“It was absolutely freezing outside so it was nice to be able to get into the Red Cross vehicle.”