The heartbroken owner of a thatched cottage in south Somerset that went up in flames suddenly on Monday was shortly due to open a bed and breakfast business there.
Ian Allen, owner of the Granary Barn, in Thorney, near Langport, with his wife Deborah and daughter Molly, aged 13, escaped the fire which destroyed the thatched roof and timbers of their home.
The house suffered 100 per cent fire damage, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service reported.
Mr Allen described how the blaze took hold in seconds.
He said: “I lit the fire and heard a rush. The chimney caught fire within 20 seconds. I put the fire out in the fireplace but the thatched roof still caught alight.”
Marc House, station manager and incident commander with Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said: “The initial report came in at 12.07pm.
“Crews from Martock and Yeovil sent to the scene found the roof completely on fire, fanned by strong wind, and smoke going over the road.”
Twelve fire engines and support vehicles attended the emergency.
Ten firefighters with breathing tanks managed to salvage possessions. At one stage crews stripped thatch from the roof of the building in a bit to stem the fire. A unit from the British Red Cross Fire and Emergency Support Services was also sent to the scene to provide support to the family.
Fire crews from across Somerset were called to aid the Yeovil and Martock crews, with engines from Crewkerne, Street, Bridgwater, Taunton, Wiveliscombe, Castle Cary, Burnham-on-Sea and a ladder unit fromYeovil attending.
It took until after midnight to quell the fire, and fire crews did not remove their equipment from the scene until it was deemed safe at 8am on Tuesday.
The fire service has reminded owners of thatched properties to keep their chimneys regularly swept and inspected.
A statement said: “Fire in a thatched roof is difficult to detect and once started is almost impossible to control as it will spread rapidly, due to the nature of how thatch burns – detection is often too late and invariably devastating.”