FIRE crews from across the county were called to Coate, near Devizes on Monday lunchtime after smoke was seen coming from the roof of a thatched cottage.

The property, owned by farmer Richard Hibberd, was left uninhabitable but firefighters managed to contain the blaze and it was stopped before it reached the main part of the building.

Mr Hibberd of Calcott Farm was alerted by a neighbour and he ran to alert his tenants Steve Lanson-Dale and Mark Lilley. But the two men, who have lived in the cottage for about eight years, had already realised there was a problem.

Mr Lanson-Dale had got a hose pipe and had started playing it onto the roof.

Mr Hibberd, whose family have farmed in the area for generations, said: “My neighbour rang and told me to ring 999. At first two fire engines arrived but after that they just kept on coming and in the end there were about 12 of them and loads of firefighters.

“They did a terrific job and managed to stop it spreading. They also got quite a lot of Steve and Mark’s possessions out of the house.

“But it is very upsetting for Steve and Mark. Most of the damage inside was caused by smoke and water.

“It was very lucky that the fire was spotted when it was.”

The two tenants were later allowed back inside the cottage and moved some of their furniture into one of Mr Hibberd’s barns. They are now staying with friends.

A spokesman for Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue said: “Crews from Devizes and Trowbridge were originally called to the cottage at 12.30pm on Monday but this was later increased to 12 fire engines. Smoke had been spotted coming from the chimney.”

Crews began stripping away the thatch as soon as they arrived. An aerial ladder appliance, control unit and water carrier were at the fire.”