Neighbours leapt into action to rescue an elderly woman after a ferocious fire tore through her home.

The quick-thinking residents rushed in to help after a blaze broke out in the kitchen of a property in Duck Street, Cattistock.

Pictures from the fire service show crews dealing with a fierce blaze on Saturday night which caused severe damage to the house.

It is now known that the fire was started when items fell onto the heat of a hob that had been left on by mistake.

The brigade said the fire rapidly developed due to a 'flashover' – when hot fire gases cause surfaces and items to increase in temperature and quickly ignite. This can make a room dangerously hot extremely quickly.

Upon seeing the flames in the early stages of the fire, about half a dozen residents reportedly rushed in to help the occupant, an elderly woman. It is understood they took her to the village pub, the Fox and Hounds, where she was looked after. It is not thought she was injured.

One of the neighbours who helped said: "We managed to get her out and take her over to the pub where she was able to be looked after. She is fine as far as we know."

While residents praised the firefighters for getting their as quickly as they could and tackling the blaze, the nearest on-call team – based at Maiden Newton – were not able to attend due to a lack of numbers to crew the engine.

A spokesman for Dorchester Fire Station said: "At 9.51pm on Saturday both crews from Dorchester were mobilised to reports of alarms at a domestic address in Cattistock.

"Whilst on route this was then upgraded to 'persons reported', with smoke and flames issuing via multiple calls. Beaminster were then also assigned to the fire and Bridport were mobilised to Dorchester for standby duties.

"Upon arrival the occupant had escaped unharmed but we were met with the kitchen fully ablaze with rapid fire growth caused by a suspected flashover.

"Crews got to work with six breathing apparatus, two hose reel jets, two thermal imaging cameras, one main line and small tools.

"The fire was surrounded and extinguished, a stop message going in to fire control roughly 12.20am. Crews remained on scene damping down."

Residents of the small village quickly became aware of the emergency.

Another Duck Street resident said: "I just woke up and saw the flashing lights."

Locals also praised the quick and effective work of the fire brigade. One said: "I think it's damn good that the fire engine can make such a fast response. They were here so quickly. It makes you feel safe."

However, a spokesman for Maiden Newton fire station said its crew was unable to attend due to lack of staff.

They said: "Sometimes it takes a big fire to highlight an issue.

"Did you see the fire engines coming through Maiden Newton on their way to Cattistock? Do you live in Cattistock and saw the amazing job done by the crews from Dorchester and Beaminster?

"Who was missing? We were.

"Maiden Newton Fire Station is under staffed and we need more people to keep our fire engine available to attend incidents. The fire engine can not move unless we have four people to crew it.

"Thankfully all involved (in the Cattistock incident) were unharmed but next time who knows what may happen?"

The spokesman encouraged more people to consider becoming an on-call firefighter.

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