Firefighters have been praised for saving a picturesque hotel after a huge thatch fire threatened to destroy it forever.
The blaze at The Potters Heron hotel and restaurant was tackled by more than 140 firefighters and officers, 25 fire engines, two aerial ladder platforms and support vehicles.
Police and ambulance were also in attendance bringing the number at its height to more than 170 emergency service personnel on the scene.
Crews from almost half of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service stations attended the fire which was believed to have been started by chimney sparks.
Nobody was injured in the blaze and most of the two-storey building in Winchester Road, Ampfield, near Romsey, was saved.
Crews used 75 sets of breathing apparatus, six jets, two hose reels and foam.
Messages commending the work of the firefighters came from the owners, politicians and the public.
The building reopened for business five days after the fire which broke out at 5pm on March 19.
Area Manager Jason Avery, who was incident commander, said: “I can’t express my gratitude enough for the crews and officers involved.
“They showed great team work, dedication and professionalism – all going the extra mile to ensure the large fire was brought under control quickly and effectively.
“It is rare we deal with an incident of this scale and we are delighted to have been able to save this beautiful building.
“Four crews were specifically deployed inside to salvage important furniture and protect the inside of the building, which importantly contributed to the quick return of the Potters Heron to business.
“In doing so we also managed to improve the chances of a positive recovery of the hotel during the very dynamic response phase.”
He went on to urge people to follow fire service advice and highlighted that more than 90 percent of thatch roof fires start as a result of a faulty flue or chimney.
He said people should regularly have their chimneys cleaned and maintained by qualified experts.
He also advised that smoke alarms be fitted to every level of the property to ensure any fire is detected immediately.
Hotel bosses have put up a sign in the building’s reception which reads: “Our amazing firefighters saved the hotel and now our lovely team welcome you.”
They went on to extend a “huge thank you” to crews while assuring the public they were, “only singed – we’re open” and promising, “the thatch will be back”.
Romsey MP Caroline Nokes, echoed these sentiments and added: “It is such a shame to see the damage at one of our more unique and historic hotels.
“My thanks, of course, go to the outstanding firefighters, including the local team in Romsey, for what was another example of exemplary bravery.”
The hotel was previously involved in a severe fire in 1966.
For more information please visit: www.hantsfire.gov.uk<