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Last Updated: Sunday, 9 April 2006, 22:18 GMT 23:18 UK
Blaze hits Dickens' Bleak House
Bleak House fire
The family who live in Bleak House were out when the fire started
A fire has badly damaged part of Charles Dickens' historic Kent home.

About 40 firefighters were called to Bleak House, in Broadstairs, at around 2130 BST on Sunday.

The fire service said the fire began in a residential first-floor bedroom and the cause was being investigated. No-one was in the property at the time.

Bleak House, which was built in 1801, overlooks the sea and is where the writer completed his classic novel David Copperfield.

Bleak House, which takes its name from the Dickens novel, once housed a Dickens museum but is now privately owned.

No-one was injured in the blaze as the family which lives in the historic building had been out.

Furniture salvaged

Kent Fire and Rescue Service station manager Darren Harvey said: "Officers were faced with tremendous heat, extreme smoke levels and visibility was nil."

A spokesperson for Kent Fire and Rescue Service, Ken Newberry, said it is not yet known how the fire started and a fire investigation officer would be investigating.

Mr Newberry said the blaze had broken out in a first-floor bedroom at the back of the house.

He said the flames had destroyed the room and a snooker room on the floor below had been left badly damaged when part of the bedroom floor caved in.

Firefighters salvaged furniture and other historic objects from the snooker room.

Bleak House's owners returned briefly to the property last night to survey the damage.

Firefighters said they were shocked and said they took refuge at a relative's house.

Bleak House overlooks the jetty at Viking Bay in Broadstairs.

Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield at Bleak House, which was originally called Fort House after the captain of the fort which stood in front of it.


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