Village cabin fire a disaster’

PUBLISHED: 05:21 01 March 2007 | UPDATED: 21:34 29 May 2010

Rodney Dodkins watches helplessly as the fire takes hold - Pics: Peter Ledgerton

Rodney Dodkins watches helplessly as the fire takes hold - Pics: Peter Ledgerton

Flames tore through a community building, reducing it to a blackened shell at the weekend. Peter Ledgerton of St Mary s Place, Little Dunmow, raised the alarm just before 3pm on Saturday after spotting smoke pouring from The Portercabin on the playing fie

The clearing up process after the fire

Flames tore through a community building, reducing it to a blackened shell at the weekend.

Peter Ledgerton of St Mary's Place, Little Dunmow, raised the alarm just before 3pm on Saturday after spotting smoke pouring from The Portercabin on the playing fields off Brook Street.

Jack Webb, chairman and treasurer of the Priory Vintage Club, which met at the cabin, was devastated.

He said: "This is a disaster for us. The Portercabin was the only real place we had to meet. If we can't find a place then I'm not sure what will happen to the club."

Mr Ledgerton recalled looking out of his window seeing the smoke and thinking someone had lit a bonfire.

"Then it dawned on me that the fire was square and that's when it hit me," he said. "I could see the flames in the outline of its window. I rushed downstairs and called the fire brigade and went outside.

"The fire brigade didn't take long to get there, but by the time they did the building was well alight with flames going up at least 16, maybe 20ft high and thick black acrid smoke billowing up into the sky," added Mr Ledgerton.

Fire crews from Dunmow and Leaden Roding rushed to the scene and battled for 40 minutes to extinguish the flames.

A fire brigade spokesman said they received a call at 2.49pm and when they arrived the building was 100 per cent alight.

"It took crews until 3.33pm to put the fire out and by that time the building had been completely destroyed," said the spokesman. "Two walls were reduced to standing no more than 18 inches tall."

The damage to the building was so bad investigators were unable to establish if the blaze was an accident or started deliberately.

The building, commonly referred to as The Portercabin was not a Portakabin but a temporary structure that had been in the village since the mid 1980s and acts as a meeting hall for several groups including the parish council and the Priory Vintage Club.

Rodney Dodkins, chairman of Little Dunmow Parish Council, was among the onlookers watching the fire crews tackling the blaze.

"I was very upset to watch it burn. It was a blessing that the wind was going in the right direction and took the smoke away from the houses and across the fields," he said. "The Portercabin's walls were insulated with polystyrene and that smoke would have been pretty nasty if it had blown across the village."

Alternative arrangements have been made for parish council meetings. The next one will be on March 12 at 7.15pm in St Mary's Church, Little Dunmow.

Looking to the months ahead, the meeting on May 14 is the annual assembly when the next council will be elected. It will be moved to the United Reformed Church Hall in Stebbing Road, Felsted.

But, in the meantime, the Priory Vintage Club is still desperately seeking a venue to hold its meetings, the next being next Friday (March 9).

"I'm trying to organise things at the moment and I am hoping it can be held in a member's home," said Mr Webb.

He said he would love to hear from anyone who has a venue where its 15 members could meet each month.

Anyone able to support the club in any way should call Mr Webb on 01371 820668.

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