A COMMUNITY has been praised after they raced to help holidaymakers when the cottage they were staying in was engulfed in a huge blaze.

A number of people were said to be in a thatched cottage when it caught fire. The holidaymakers were alerted to the fire when neighbours spotted flames running across the thatch.

At its height 50 firefighters and seven fire engines were involved in fighting the blaze in Affpuddle.

Neighbours were praised by the fire service for rushing to the aid of the people in the house after they fled the fire. The fire flared up at just after 7pm on Thursday and destroyed the property.

Fire station manager for Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service, Charlie Pack said: “I’d like to thank local residents for supporting us and looking after the occupants of the property. It was a cold night and they took them in. The community really pulled together.”

Mr Pack said although the source of the fire remained unknown it was believed the flames were moving across the thatch from the chimney stack which was located in the middle of the roof.

Mr Pack said thatch fires were particularly difficult to put out as the thatch is designed to keep water out so firefighters needed to tackle the fire from both inside and outside the property.

“The fire will burn down into the roof so you can’t just spray water on to the house, it has to be taken apart it,” he said.

The entire thatch roof was removed from the property and could be seen in huge piles in the road yesterday.

An adjacent thatch property was coated in a white foam blanket to prevent the fire from spreading.

Smoke could still be seen coming off the property on Friday as firefighters remained at the scene throughout the day to deal with a number of ‘hotspots’ and damp down the area. Structural engineers arrived around 9am as there were concerns the cottage’s chimney stack would collapse without the support of the roof.

The owner of the cottage, Jonathan Wilkes who was not at the property at the time of the fire, said he was still in shock.

“It’s a terrible tragedy. Everyone in the local community has been amazing in helping the people who were in the building last night.

“The thing that matters is no one was hurt and everyone got out safely,” Mr Wilkes said.

He added the firefighters had been “terrific” and praised the service.

Chris and Amanda Parker, who have lived in Affpuddle for 13 years said it was a sad sight to see the cottage destroyed.

“It’s such a shame,” Mr Parker said. “It was such a pretty cottage - really quaint. The blessing is no one was hurt but even so it’s just so sad to see it in that state.”

An investigation to determine the cause of the fire has been launched.