FORMER chief constable Keith Hellawell has lost his beloved holiday home to forest fires raging through the south of France.
The two-bedroom chalet on the Mediterranean coast has been razed to the ground in one of 30 intense blazes that swept through the region.
Mr Hellawell and his wife Bren, who have owned the wood-built chalet for five years, told of their heartache after sifting vainly through the wreckage in an attempt to salvage some beloved keepsakes.
Speaking from his Huddersfield home today, the former West Yorkshire police chief and country's `drugs tsar' described how much the pretty property meant to him and his family.
"Particularly with the work I did it was a sanctuary, something completely different.
"We love Yorkshire and call it our little piece of heaven, but that was another piece of heaven for us.
"It seemed to be so detached from the hurly-burly of a stressful life."
The heavily-forested region between St Tropez and Nice is a destination popular with holiday-makers and famed for its picturesque bays.
The fires, the worst in living memory, have brought devastation to the area at the height of the summer season.
Some 20,000 hectares of pine woodlands were reduced to ashes.
Mr Hellawell has taken holidays at Colombier every summer for the past 35 years.
He and his wife were preparing to move into a villa and were using the chalet to store many of their furnishings.
"We have collected things to go into the villa and all of this has been destroyed."
He described the aftermath of the blaze as a lunar landscape.
"All the metal is tangled. Everything has gone with the intense heat."
Burnt out cars litter the once-pretty site.
In today's Examiner column he writes: "In 25 minutes the fury of nature took away all the beautiful trees, our second homes, our little gardens and all our precious belongings."
One of his two daughters, Alexandra owns a chalet on the same site.
He spoke of his disbelief on hearing the news.
"Some friends in France rang us and said there had been a terrible fire at Colombier. We just didn't believe it."