DORSET and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has issued fire safety warnings to people living in thatched properties.

It comes after two recent "serious fires" involving thatched homes, in Netheravon and Cranborne, which each needed well over 75 firefighters to tackle.

There is no increased risk of fire within a thatched property, but the impact of a fire can be far greater.

Over 90 per cent of thatch roof fires start as a result of a faulty flue or chimney.

Old or badly maintained chimneys can deteriorate to the point where smoke and hot gases can escape into the upper rooms, the roof space or directly into the thatch.

Extinguishing thatch fires is difficult, as thatch is designed to repel water.

Firefighters have to physically remove the roofing material to get to the source of the blaze.

Group Manager Tim Gray said: “More often than not, once fire is discovered in a thatched roof, it has already taken hold and the chances of firefighters being able to control it are minimal.

"It’s therefore vital that you do all you can to prevent fire from starting in the first place, and make sure your insurance is up-to-date, remembering to check both your contents and buildings policies.”

He added: “Most insurers will have requirements before they agree to provide cover, so it’s imperative that you do all they ask.

"For example, some make it part of your policy to have a garden hose on standby, or state how often spark arrestors need to be cleaned, or determine what size the flue outlet should be.

"If the worst does happen, firefighters will salvage as many of your possessions as they can, so be clear on where particularly valuable or sentimental items are so you can help crews to help you.”

For more information go to