Residents warned to check phone book ‘experts’ after fire

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Albert Busley (85) and his wife, Kathleen (82) were told to “get out” as the man ran out of the Longhurst property in St Matthew’s Close on Tuesday afternoon, claiming to be calling his boss.

Instead, he fled the scene.

Pensioner Albert Busley wept as he recalled the bungle by a pest control company workman that destroyed the home he had shared with his wife for 17 years.

Taking refuge in a sheltered housing block yards from where their home went up in flames in St Matthew’s Close, Holbeach, he said: “Longhurst do not pay for the removal of wasp nests, so we found this number for Affordable Pest Control in the phone book.

“The man came and went up into the loft and suggested we shut the doors in case any wasps came down.

“I heard a clatter and he came down and said ‘get out –I need to ring my boss’.

“But he didn’t come back and just drove off.”

Neighbour Steven Cooley (25) was at home on Tuesday afternoon when the fire started.

He said: “I heard a roar and looked through the window and saw people running into the close screaming. Then I saw one of the bungalows in a row of four was on fire.”

Mr Busley’s wife, Kathleen, said of her husband: “He’s a real home bird. He keeps saying he just wants to go home. This has hit him really hard.”

Michael York, assistant surveyor at Longhurst and Havelok Homes Ltd, explained to the couple they had been booked into a hotel in Spalding and would be moved to accommodation in Long Sutton as soon as possible.

He assured them that they would eventually be able to return to their home, but the damage was too severe for them to go back immediately.

Tony Walker, watch manager at Holbeach Fire Station, said fire engines from Holbeach, Long Sutton, Spalding and Kirton attended the scene.

Mr Walker said: “We removed the tiles from the roof to expose the timbers and managed to extinguish the fire in about 20 minutes.

“There is extensive damage to the roof space but fortunately the interior isn’t too bad – small areas of smoke and water damage.”

However, he said the incident sent out a strong message to residents calling in “experts” from the phone book.

He said: “A naked flame should never have been used to remove wasps from a roof space full of timber. Workmen from reputable firms should know this.”

Yesterday (Wednesday), the Spalding Guardian contacted contractor Shaun Robb, of Affordable Pest Control, who said he had not been informed that there had been problems with the booking.

He said: “I’m shocked – I had no idea. I found a sub-contactor in the area in good faith. As a contractor I’ve used them for four years and never had any complaints.”

After contacting the firm to investigate what had happened, Mr Robb said: “The man responsible said he told the couple to get out and warned the neighbours, but then panicked and drove off, which is horrendous.

“My concern right now is for the couple. I have to take my share of the responsibility for this and I’ve been in touch and will be paying their removal costs.”