FIREFIGHTERS from across Dorset and neighbouring counties tackled a thatched roof blaze which engulfed two properties.

At the height of the incident near Milborne St Andrew, around 80 firefighters were involved in battling the flames which affected the roofs of two farm cottages.

Residents told how flames leapt up over the buildings while smoke could be seen for miles around.

Crews were praised for preventing it from spreading to a third neighbouring property.

It is the latest in a series of fires involving thatched properties and comes just days after a blaze which devastated a home in Alton Pancras. A warning has again been issued to householders.

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said 13 fire engines together with specialist officers were at the incident on Saturday afternoon. Crews from Hampshire and Devon and Somerset brigades assisted.

The call was received just before 1.50pm. The fire affected 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: “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 service.

“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 involved.

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

“The action of firefighters 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.

Crews remained there until the early hours of Sunday and were back at the scene later in the day to re-inspect the properties. The brigade could not reveal the full extent of damage.

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 brigade 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 said: “It’s devastating for the people that live there. Thank God nobody was hurt.

“Flames were leaping up over the building.”

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.