AN inferno the size of a football pitch was metres away from setting tents alight at BoomTown Fair, it has emerged.
The actions of four brave firefighters stopped the approaching wall of fire from reaching tipis in a luxury campsite after damaging 100 cars, a fire chief has told the Daily Echo.
An investigation continues today to determine what started the fire at the festival near Winchester.
Huge plumes of black smoke were visible across Matterley Bowl and from as far as Winchester city centre, four miles away as the fire caught hold.
Crews from across Hampshire raced to the scene at 4.15pm as a fire which started with just three cars quickly spread to dozens more.
The officer in command, Winchester watch manager Mark Compton, has told the Daily Echo how 50 cars were already ablaze by the time he arrived.
He said: “Eighty cars were totally destroyed. Well over 100 vehicles were damaged or destroyed by the fire.”
He said that with the heat from the fire and with flying burning debris rising in the air it was easy for other fires to start.
“The heat was very, very intense,” he said. “We were literally just trying to prevent the fire from breaking out.”
He said that the inferno was “a matter of metres” from a so-called glamping site at the festival.
It was the actions of just four firefighters who were the first on scene who managed to stop the fire from spreading to the ‘Boomtique’ campsite, Mr Compton said.
“Had [the fire] got into that area we would really have had a major incident to deal with,” he said.
Because of the festival’s location, on Matterley Estate, Mr Compton said it was difficult to get water to the site. But he said they had assistance from the police and from local farmers to get the resources the crews needed.
Eventually firefighters were able to create a foam barrier around a block of cars to stop the fire spreading.
“The wind, the heat and the fuel were the perfect conditions for the fire to spread rapidly. I was confident in the firefighters abilities to control the fire,” Mr Compton said.
“The more heat you have, the bigger the fire and it increases in intensity.”
He added that the four firefighters “acted so well” to stop the fire spreading with limited resources.
“The crews that attended didn’t stop the entire time that they were there. They were very professional,” he said.
No one was hurt in the fire, which burnt for over an hour. The festival’s ‘Boomtique’ campsite was evacuated while crews from Winchester, Eastleigh, Redbridge, St Mary’s, Alresford, Beaulieu and Bishop’s Waltham battled the flames.
South Central Ambulance Services hailed the “great joint working from all emergency responders”.
A spokesman for BoomTown said the affected cars were in the West Car Park and would have arrived between 10am and 11am.
Hampshire Constabulary are set to assist with the investigation. It will take “a few days” to establish the cause, a fire service spokesman said.