SPECIALIST fire fighting equipment was used to tackle a blaze in a pub’s thatched roof.

Staff at the King’s Arms in Wareham were alerted by a passer-by who spotted sparks leaping from the chimney just before 8pm last night.

The pub was evacuated and Dorset Fire and Rescue set to work tackling the flames, which had spread from an open fire through some brickwork to the thatched roof.

Crews from four fire engines used a special firefighting foam system and a hose reel jet to put out the fire at the North street pub. They were assisted by a local farmer.

Landlady Julia Ballard and her partner Ralph Breeds ensured around 20 customers using the pub at the time were led to safety and the pub remained closed for the evening. It is open for business as usual today.

Mr Breeds told the Daily Echo: “We were very lucky that someone saw the sparks before the fire had spread any further. We can’t praise Dorset Fire and Rescue enough for their quick response and the way they dealt with the fire.

“We were not very busy so there were only about 20 people in at the time and we managed to get them all out safely.”

Fire crews from Wareham and Poole were first on the scene and were then joined by a further engine with specialist equipment on board and a command support unit from Hamworthy fire station.

The fire was under control by 11.30pm and a crew from Wareham returned to inspect the property at 2am. A thermal imaging camera was used to ensure there were no remaining hotspots.

Around 20 per cent of the thatch was damaged.