Tenants recall ‘devastating’ fire at Rye Harbour pub

Tenants Julie Williams and Dom Higham after the fire at the Inkerman Arms, Rye Harbour SUS-160222-142919001
Tenants Julie Williams and Dom Higham after the fire at the Inkerman Arms, Rye Harbour SUS-160222-142919001

The tenants of a Rye Harbour pub said the losses from the chimney fire last week were ‘devastating’ but are glad to still be alive.

A fire in the first floor bedroom at The Inkerman Arms, Harbour Road, on Monday, February 12, left Julie Williams and Dom Higham with extensive damage, no downstairs heating and no trade.

Julie and Dom keep the windows open to get rid of the smell of smoke after the fire at The Inkerman Arms, Rye Harbour. SUS-160222-142852001

Julie and Dom keep the windows open to get rid of the smell of smoke after the fire at The Inkerman Arms, Rye Harbour. SUS-160222-142852001

Ms Williams said there is an clean-up to repair the fire and smoke damage and they cannot reopen until the chimney stack has been inspected.

“The upstairs room was burnt out completely and black smoke has affected all areas of accommodation,” she said.

“Our loss of personal possessions is devastating but we and the dogs are still alive and kicking.”

Julie rents the pub with her partner Dom and live in the flat upstairs with their two Labradoodles Stanley and Ollie.

A neighbour alerted them to the smell of burning soot but after checking the wood burner and chimney pots but could not see anything unusual.

But within minutes, the smoke alarms went off and Dom found smoke billowing out of an upstairs room and everyone evacuated.

Two East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service pumps arrived at around 8.55am.

Fire crews wearing breathing apparatus used two hose reels to tackle the fire before making the pub safe to re-enter.

Dom said it was quite a surprise to him how much a fire like this effects your life and that they were lucky it was not in the middle of the night.

“We are very grateful to all our friends who have offered sympathy, help and even accommodation and hope to resume normal business as soon as we are able,” Julie said.

The couple are still living in the pub but the smell of smoke and dust are causing issues.

They hope to have the pub open on Thursday (February 25) but the restaurant and upstairs will not be ready for another week or so due to the lack of heating.

Ms Williams said the fire may have been caused by bird nests and debris in the chimney but it is unclear what started it.

“We are given to understand that the seat of the fire was bird nesting material and debris which had built up over many years behind the upstairs blocked off fireplace,” she said.

“Unfortunately, when this fireplace had been covered, the flue was not capped to prevent such debris from entering this space.

“The source of ignition of the debris has not yet been determined.

“Maybe an ember from the wood burner side rose above the chimney pot and went down the other flue into the upstairs chimney cavity.

“Alternatively, the debris may have become so dry and overheated just by proximity to the wood burner flue that it started to smoulder and ignited that way.”

Dom was concerned about the many other uncovered chimneys in old buildings across the country that are ‘ticking time bombs’ due to the fire risk.

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