A canal boat was destroyed by fire last night along the Kennet and Avon canal near Harepath Bridge in Horton, Devizes.

Crews from Devizes and a special lighting unit from Melksham were alerted to the fire just before 6pm and it took almost 5 hours to bring the blaze under control. Their job was made more complicated by the fact that there were various compressed gas cylinders on board the boat which needed to be cooled from a safe distance before crews could approach. In all, 4 appliances and 18 firefighters attended the fire, the cause of which is currently unclear.

Station Manager Sarah Allen from Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service said, "This is a tragic start to Boat Safety Week which began on Monday. Boating is usually fun and relaxing, but even the most experienced boater should prepare for the worst. Whilst fire is unlikely on a boat that is well maintained to minimum safety standards, it is a grave concern to boaters who can be caught unawares or in a situation where escape is difficult. Luckily on this occasion the owner was able to escape and nobody was hurt. Just as for householders, boat owners should ensure that they have a working smoke alarm, and preferably a carbon monoxide detector as well."

Any boat owners who would like further advice are encouraged to request a free home safety check for their boat by calling 0800 3897849.

Further advice on preventing fires and how to plan for fire breaking out on a boat, plus details of the Boat Safety Scheme are available at www.boatsafetyscheme.com or by visiting Wiltshire Fire and rescue service's own website at www.wiltsfire.gov.uk .