SCORES of firefighters have been tackling another thatched roof blaze which flared up in the Dorset countryside.

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said 13 fire engines together with specialist officers were at the incident near Milborne St Andrew on Saturday afternoon.

The call was received at just before 1.50pm.

The fire has engulfed the roofs of two farm cottages, part of a block of three, in an area off Milton Road, about a mile north of Milborne St Andrew.

Jason Rogers from the fire service said at its height 80 firefighters were involved in tackling the blaze.

He said: "It was the neighbour of the occupant who made the call. She noticed smoke issuing from the thatched roof.

"They made attempts to fight the fire themselves whilst calling the fire services.

"We responded with eight fire engines and a water carrier."

The incident progressed and at its height, there were 13 fire engines and 80 firefighters battling the blaze.

Mr Rogers said: "There were two adjoining thatched roof cottage that were fully involved in fire on our arrival.

"The action of fire fighters enabled us to save a large quantity of personal belongings and the third property.

"Early information suggests this fire was caused by a fault in the chimney.

"Nobody was injured - including occupants' family pets."

The third cottage had a tile roof.

Mr Rogers added: "The message from Dorset Fire and Rescue is that if you have a thatch roof, make sure your chimney is swept properly."

A spokesman for Dorset Fire and Rescue said: "Because it has been quite dry and cold lately, people are probably lighting fires longer than they would have done.

"Usually at the point of ignition, these can be very dangerous.

"Keep an eye on your fire whilst it is burning."

The fire was visible to a number of local residents as they passed along Milton Road.

One, who did not wish to be named, said: "It's devastating for the people that live there because, obviously, they no longer have a home.

"Thank God nobody was hurt, which is the main thing.

"Flames were leaping up over the building."

It is the latest in a series of fires involving thatched properties and comes just days after a serious blaze which devastated a home in Alton Pancras. In that incident on Wednesday, 10 fire engines and two water carriers were involved - a total of 60 firefighters.

The brigade says beautiful as thatched properties are, they carry a "real risk" of fire.

Such fires can be difficult to tackle as the thatch is designed to repel water, so the straw has to be stripped away to give firefighters access to the flames.

Advice from the fire service to owners of thatched properties includes insulating the chimney flue to prevent the heat from transferring into the thatch layer.

This is especially important when a solid fuel or wood burner is installed, as they burn at higher temperatures than conventional open fires.

Other top tips for a thatched property:

  • Have the chimney swept regularly by a qualified chimney sweep
  • Only burn seasoned wood
  • Have the chimney inspected by a qualified chimney engineer
  • If you have a spark arrestor fitted, clean it regularly.
  • This should be done every three months on chimneys in regular use and the arrestor should be taken down to clean
  • Fit a bird guard to deter birds from building nests in chimneys
  • Smoke alarms should be installed throughout your home.
  • If you have a loft space, then an interlinked smoke alarm should be fitted which is connected to at least one other within the property
  • Check the electrical system throughout your home
  • Be careful when using blowtorches or heat guns (if plumbing or painting etc)
  • Restrict the use of bonfires near to your property
  • Consider a system of heat sensors within the thatch around the chimney. This will give you an early warning of any overheating of the thatch
  • Install an outside tap with enough hose to reach around the house, including the roof. This can be used to tackle any fires at an early stage
  • Residential sprinkler systems will greatly improve the fire precautions within your home
  • Consider forming a fireproof barrier between the roof timbers and the thatch layer when renovating or undertaking re-roofing. A thatch fire will be mainly restricted to the thatch and damage to the rest of the house will be limited.