HUNDREDS of half-term holidaymakers were caught up in lengthy delays as firefighters worked to prevent the spread of a heathland blaze at Studland.

Dorset Fire & Rescue Service (DFRS) asked police to close off Ferry Road, and the Sandbanks Ferry was temporarily suspended, while they tackled the lunchtime drama.

The fire - which destroyed a VW camper van, a car and a 40 x 20 metre section of heathland - is believed to have started because of a fault with the camper van.

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Both vehicles were parked on heathland, a few metres in from Ferry Road. No-one was injured in the incident.

DFRS Poole and Hamworthy district commander Charlie Pack praised the work of fire crews, who managed to confine the blaze to a relatively small area.

"Luckily the wind was blowing out to sea," he said.

"Had it been blowing in the other direction, things could have been a lot different."

The owners of the camper van, who remained at the scene while firefighters dampened down, declined to comment.

Emergency services were alerted at 12.37pm and a pillar of smoke could be seen from across the harbour at Sandbanks.

The Studland chain ferry immediately suspended services to the public to allow fire crews and emergency services to quickly get to the scene.

Firefighters from Westbourne and Poole were sent across, joining a crew from Swanage who made their way to the scene along Ferry Road. Around 17 firefighters were deployed at the height of the incident.

Richard Green from Ashley Cross, who was on the Poole side of the harbour, said police closed the road to allow emergency services to go across on the chain ferry.

"Although a police bike had parked in the yellow box to stop motorists getting to the ferry they were driving around the motorbike," he said.

Dorset Police closed Ferry Road for around two hours, before opening one lane to ferry traffic. Hundreds of motorists were caught up in the drama.

Mr Pack said: "Preliminary investigations lead us to believe that the fire started as the result of an ignition fault with the VW camper van."

"Whilst we would like to encourage members of the public to enjoy the heathland, please take care to ensure the risk of fire is kept to a minimum."