Heroes of pub blaze
THE manager of the Kingsdon Inn has praised firefighters for salvaging what they could when flames engulfed the pub.
More than 80 fire crew were involved in the frantic operation to save the 300-year-old inn near Somerton.
BATTLE OF KINGSDON: Firefighters tackle a blaze at the Kingsdon Inn in Kingsdon, near Somerton, after the thatched roof caught fire. Picture by Laura Jones
SAVAGE BLOW: Kingsdon Inn manager Algy Napier has thanked the fire service for salvaging what they could from a blaze at the pub last week. Picture by Laura Jones
Twelve fire engines from across the county worked for ten hours to put out the blaze after the thatched roof caught fire at around 11.30am.
Fire officers believe hot embers from an indoor log fire landed on the thatch, sparking the inferno. Within hours the roof and the contents of two upper double bedrooms had disappeared. Gallons of water trained on the flames damaged the bar and restaurant area, which was closed at the time as staff prepared for the lunchtime rush.
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It is hoped the iconic building will be rebuilt and back in business in seven to nine months.
Pub manager Algy Napier, who has been in charge at the pub for two years, joined onlookers who tried to douse the fire in its infancy by climbing on to the roof with hosepipes.
He said: "I was inside at the time preparing for lunchtime when someone saw smoke and rang 999. There were soon some men up on the roof with hosepipes and I helped them. There were no flames, just lots of smoke.
"We had a lot of support from the village and the fire crews were great. They saved a lot of chairs, food and booze, but there were some things they could not save."
Dave Robinson, area manager of Devon and Somerset Fire Service, said: "The owner has to be praised for his reaction and getting everyone out of the pub. He had a clear fire plan and made sure everyone was safe.
"We worked hard to remove the thatch off the roof and salvaged as much stuff from inside the pub as we could."
Vince Holland and his crew from Somerton fire station were first on the scene and called for back-up as soon as they saw the smoke. The village was shut off by police as crews positioned themselves around Kingsdon in case of further fires. There were fears that sparks could ignite the thatches of other properties.
Western Power was called to make electricity supplies safe and members of the Salvation Army were on hand to provide food and refreshments for the firemen.
Somerton postman Michael Francis, 32, who was one of the first to see the fire, said: "I put post in at the Kingsdon Inn and chatted to staff and it seemed like a normal day. But later I noticed smoke coming from the roof and saw staff outside and builders with hoses watering the roof. You couldn't see for smoke and it was smouldering away."
The pub is owned by Game Bird Inns and historic features include original beams and fireplaces. It was originally a cider house, serving the traditional Somerset drink from the old front door.
There was a smaller blaze at the inn three years ago, when an electrical fault caused a fire behind the bar. On that occasion the roof remained unscathed.