SIMPLE safety checks could have prevented a Fire which ripped through a stately home in North Dorset on Saturday night (23), say fire chiefs.

More than 60 fire fighters from two counties battled the blaze at Holnest Park House near Sherborne into the early hours of Sunday morning (24) after an electric blanket caught fire.

Now the fire investigation officer, Mike Cox, has said the blaze at the Grade II listed building could have been “very easily prevented.”

“Electric blankets are perfectly safe to use so long as they are not damaged, are thermostatically controlled, are tested regularly by qualified electricians and are stored correctly, either flat or rolled, not folded.

“In this case the blanket was left on without a thermostat so acted as an unmonitored heating device which did just that, continued to heat until it caught fire,” said Group Manager Cox.

“Some very, very simple safety measures would have prevented this happening,” he added.

The 18th century manor house had been converted into seven flats. None of the residents was in the building during the fire, and no one was injured.

Chief Fire Officer, Darran Gunter, who was among the fire fighters at the scene, praised colleagues for saving two wings of the manor house and containing the fire in its central area.

Structural damage prevented fire fighters from entering the building, forcing them to fight the fire from outside. The district council’s structural engineer has since declared the building unsound.

A fire service spokeswoman said the complexity of the building, which has numerous cavities in the roof, had increased the difficulty faced by crews.

She described the roof cavities as “like a maze”, adding that it had made it extremely difficult for officers to create fire breaks.

The fire in the central section of the property re-ignited at about 3am but was quickly contained.

A relief crew of about 20 fire fighters arrived at 8am with four fire engines to damp down potential hot spots.

Fire crews have remained at the scene throughout the day.