The blaze on 21st September spread into the first floor of the cottages at South Litchfield from the roofspace. Firefighters worked to prevent the flames spreading to the lower half of the properties.

The occupants of the cottages all escaped without harm and a gaggle of geese was also safely rescued from one of the buildings.

The fire service believes the fire may have been caused by a defect in the chimney of one of the cottages.

Group Manager Jerry Leonard said: "It appears the occupants had lit the fire for the first time this winter and the chimney defect meant the rising heat set the roof space ablaze.

"As people begin to light their fires, it is a very timely reminder of the importance of keeping chimneys and flues well maintained.

"Many fires remain confined to the chimney but, as in this case, they can spread and lead to a much more serious blaze. Through regular maintenance most chimney fires are preventable."

The 999 call was received shortly after 5p, and crews from Overton, Whitchurch, Basingstoke, Winchester, Eastleigh, Andover and Rushmoor went to the scene.

One jet, three hose reels and the aerial ladder platform were used to tackle the blaze. The roofs of the three cottages were completely destroyed, while the first floors were also badly damaged.

Group Manager Leonard said: "Water supplies were very limited due to the remote location and the crews did a great job in containing the fire with limited resources."

Credit: Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service