Essex house destroyed by blaze 200m from fire station

A house on fire Image copyright Nick Gunn
Image caption The fire was accidental and began in the kitchen, the fire service said

A fire service has been criticised after a home was destroyed despite being 200m (656ft) from a fire station.

The house, in Ongar, Essex, caught fire just before 19:10 BST on Saturday.

A relative of the family who lived at the property said he had watched the whole house go up in flames while waiting for firefighters.

It took other fire crews 16 minutes to arrive and Essex Fire Service said it was unfortunate that Ongar's retained crew was not available.

The first crew arrived from Harlow and others came from Chelmsford, Braintree, Loughton and Old Harlow.

Former firefighter Nick Gunn, whose brother-in-law Ben Carter lives at the property with his wife and three children, blamed management for the lack of cover at Ongar.

He said: "We arrived and there was a fire on the ground floor only. We thought the fire station would be there very quickly. We just stood there and watched the whole thing go up before the crews from Harlow and Brentwood could get there.

"Clearly there is something management haven't got right."

Image copyright Patrick Carter
Image caption The fire destroyed the house after starting on the ground floor

The fire service said a resident discovered the fire in the kitchen and no-one was injured as the house in Turret Court was evacuated.

Mr Gunn said the family lost everything and were in shock, but said he did not blame individual firefighters.

Tony Clark, group manager for the fire service in the south west of Essex, said the service's thoughts were with the family.

He said: "We pride ourselves on intervening at the earliest possible time, unfortunately on this particular time the crew in Ongar were not available at the time."

Mr Clark said the service aimed to arrive on scene within 15 minutes of a call and have on-call appliances available 90% of the time, but funding meant it was impossible to open all stations all the time.

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