A SEVENTEENTH century farmhouse has been severely damaged after a fire ripped through its thatched roof.

It is the second time a fire has broken out at Levy Pool Farm House near Bowes in rural Teesdale in recent years, with the owners having to re-thatch the roof following a blaze in 2005.

No-one was hurt in the latest incident on Thursday night but the house suffered extensive damage, especially the roof, which was one of the last remaining heather thatched roofs in County Durham.

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The Northern Echo:

The roof of the property in the Bowes area, in Teesdale, was severely damaged in the fire. Picture: County Durham Rural Cops / @RuralCops

The fire service was alerted to the blaze at about 8.30pm. Police officers, who share a station with the firefighters in Barnard Castle, also responded to the call, knowing their cars were faster and would get there first.

After making sure all the occupants were safely out of the house, the police officers secured a pet in a vehicle and helped firefighters carry their kits down to the steam to set up the pumps.

Two fire appliances from Barnard Castle, one from Bishop Auckland and one from Middleton-in-Teesdale attended the incident, along with a water tanker from Spennymoor.

A spokesperson from the fire service said: "This was an extremely challenging job for the firefighters due to the lack of water and the rural setting.

"They also had to use water from a river behind the house, which was difficult because it was pitch black."

The fire was brought under control at 11pm.