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How this fire happened

A chimney fire at a popular and busy pub in Rye started in an upstairs chimney breast behind an unused and blocked off fireplace. A build-up of birds nesting material and debris in the chimney is believed to be the cause of the accidental fire.

Early in the morning a neighbour alerted the landlord to a smell of burning soot but when the chimney pots were inspected from outside, there appeared to be no sign of fire.


However, just minutes later the smoke alarms fitted throughout the pub started to sound and smoke was found to be billowing from an upstairs bedroom.

Safety message

  • Fit smoke detectors

  • Purchase a purpose made wood burner that conforms to British Standards

  • Ensure your wood burner is installed according to manufacturer's instructions

  • Maintain the wood burner in line with manufacturer's instructions.

  • Regularly check fixings and flue for damage

  • Make sure the flue is swept regularly

  • If you have any blocked off fireplaces get them swept regularly or capped off

  • Where possible avoid burning green, damp or treated wood.

  • Check your insurance

  • Come up with a Business Continuity plan to cover these sort of emergencies

  1. East Sussex County Council - Planning for emergencies – business continuity

  2. Preparing for an emergency - Sussex Resilience Forum 

The pub was quickly evacuated and the fire service arrived at 08.55 in the morning, 2 hose reels were used by firefighters in breathing apparatus were used to extinguish the chimney fire. 


Luckily, due to the smoke alarms and observant neighbour the pub was speedily evacuated and no one was injured. 


The impact on the business and owners however was a very different story.

The effect it had

"Early on a cold morning we lit the log burner downstairs in the pub and started to get ready for our day.


Just as we were about to take our 2 dogs out for a walk a neighbour from 3 doors down knocked and said they could smell burning and see smoke from our chimney.


We looked but couldn’t see anything. However, just then our smoke alarms went off so I went upstairs to check all the rooms and called the Fire Service.

When I opened the last bedroom door I was confronted with a cloud of billowing black smoke.

It was very frightening. The heat was intense.


We evacuated and waited outside, the Fire Service arrived really quickly and were fabulous.


It seems that although we had had the bedroom fireplace boarded off, it hadn’t been capped and debris had built up. The log burner flu was lined but the intense heat set the debris on fire through a space in the bricks. 

We were very lucky, it could have been a lot worse, the fire spread so quickly.


I remember seeing metal coat hangers that were on the opposite side of the room, melted like plastic.


We had to close the business for 2 weeks due to the fire and not being able to use the log burner (our only source of heating) until it had been properly checked.


A building inspector also had to check the building as we thought there could be structural damage. Luckily that wasn’t the case. 

Psychologically the fire has had a lasting impact on us both personally and as a business."

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