An unwanted house visitor - the infamous glis glis - is thought to be responsible for a devastating house fire.
Two families are now temporarily homeless after a loft fire in Highfield Road, which is thought to have been caused by the squirrel-like pest chewing through electrical wiring.
The glis glis - also known as the edible dormouse - was introduced to Tring when the rodents escaped from eccentric Walter Rothchild’s private animal collection in 1902. Since then it has been wreaking havoc in people’s homes and wall cavities, keeping people awake at night with their nocturnal scurrying and chewing through house wiring. The rodent is concentrated in a 200-square-mile triangle between Beaconsfield, Aylesbury, and Luton, around the southeast side of the Chiltern Hills.
No-one was injured in the weekend blaze, which happened in the early hours of Saturday, despite the smoke alarms not going off because the fire started in the loft.
The blaze started in the home of businessman David Metcalfe and spread to the roof of neighbour photographer Andrea Lane’s home.
Moments after both families had fled their homes, David’s gas boiler exploded.
Andrea said: “There was an almighty explosion.
“Five minutes more and things would have been different for David and his family. They are so lucky, well we both are.
“All of David’s roof has gone and the flames went through to our roof and it has burnt all of the beams.”
Firefighters were called to the scene just before 1.15am on Saturday where they used breathing apparatus, a hosereel and jets to battle the flames.
The fire was out just before 2.30am and crews then spent time dampening down the properties.
Tring and Berkhamsted retained firefighters, along with Hemel Hempstead crews and firefighters from Rickmansworth were involved in the operation.
Dacorum Borough Council advises that prevention is better than cure to avoid problems with invading glis glis, which can be tricky to get rid of once they have moved in. Those with glis glis in their homes already should seek a professional pest controller who is licensed by Natural England. There are strict rule surrounding the capture of disposal of glis glis. More information is available on the council’s website at www.dacorum.gov.uk/home.