A mum of two accidentally started a fire on Bournemouth beach, which led to it being evacuated, simply by boiling a kettle to treat a suspected weever fish sting.
Fiona Tew, 36, and her sister-in-law Lainey Norman, 39, were at a beach hut with their five children when Fiona’s nephew rushed over saying that he had been stung by a fish.
Concerned, the mum of two put on the kettle using a gas stove and left her nephew Jamie, 14, in the beach whilst she went to get some more water to pour over his stung skin.
Yet as she was heading back to the beach hut, Fiona was horrified to see huge clouds of smoke emerging from the 8ft by 6ft cabin. She then spotted Jamie outside, yelling “the hut is on fire!”.
As the huge blaze began to engulf the heath-covered cliff face, alarmed sunseekers were evacuated from the beach and sunbathers were told they had to leave the shoreline immediately.
Seeing the smoke, an off-duty fireman rushed over to help and a neighbouring beach hut owner also came to help by providing a fire extinguisher.
By the time the group managed to put the fire out, the wooden cabin had been set ablaze and the fire had spread to the gorse on the cliff-face above.
In the end, a team of 40 firefighters were needed to help battle the flames and put them under control. The fire had burnt down three beach huts along the promenade and covered 100 square feet of the cliff face.
Whilst the fire had been taking hold, Lainey and the other children, aged from two to six, had been playing on the beach.
Fiona and her husband Gavin, of Bournemouth, Dorset, had owned the beach hut for five years before it had been destroyed.
In Bournemouth, it can cost as much as £100,000 to own a beach hut on the seafront.
Gavin, a fitness instructor, said that the beach hut had been his “happy” place and he would often run exercise classes on Bournemouth beach.
Fiona said: “Our nephew was with his friends and came over saying he’d been stung by a weaver fish and asking if he could get some hot water from our beach hut.
“I filled up the kettle, put it on the hob and told him to wait while I went to get some cold water from one of the taps.
“I was walking back and all of a sudden he was in front of me saying ‘Auntie Fiona, I think the beach hut is on fire’.
“With that, I looked up and saw the smoke and ran back as fast as I could.
“We tried to get as much stuff as we could out of there but we didn’t have enough time to get anything.”
She added: “It was just horrible. The kids were really upset, this is our favourite place to be and I’m just so glad nobody was hurt.
“The stuff can be replaced but there’s things that had a sentimental value to them.
“We’ve had this beach hut for about eight years and it’s like a little community so everyone was looking out for the kids.
“It was horrible for the kids who just had to stand there and watch.
“I’ve never seen anything like it – it just went up in seconds.
“The cliff face will take years to grow back and will be a constant reminder of what happened.”
Jamie’s gran Marilyn Tew, 74, told The Sun: “Fiona and Lainey were at the beach hut for the day with the five children when Jamie suddenly got stung by a weever fish.
“Fiona put the kettle on and went off to get some more water and on the way back she saw huge plumes of smoke coming from the hut.
“Jamie was shouting, the beach hut is on fire.
“Nobody quite knows exactly how it happened, it’s a little bit of a mystery.
“Jamie was in shock, he didn’t know what to do.
“The family have lost everything, their bank cards and their car keys and everything was melted.
“It’s just so awful, the fire went up so quickly. They just feel awful about what happened.
“Another beach hut owner rushed to get his fire extinguisher but by the time he had got back it was far too late, the fire had spread onto the cliff and had begun burning down other huts nearby.”
Unfortunately, the couple did not have insurance on the beach hut and are now facing a £2,000 bill to have it replaced.
Gavin said: “Anita, who owns the hut two down, had her late husband’s watch in hers so she was really upset and crying.
“Thankfully Fiona found it and was able to give it back to her.
“She rang me and said there was a fire and I just told her to put it out.
“When I saw the video footage on social media I realised that she couldn’t just put it out.
“I use the hut for work so, for the time being, I’ll have to train people away from the beach.
“We just really hope that the other people’s huts have got insurance because we didn’t.”
South Western Ambulance Service confirmed that there had been no reports of any injuries.
The fire was reported to have been put out at around 5.30 pm.