The fire crews tackling last night’s blaze at The Bell Inn in Ingoldmells have been praised for working quickly and efficiently under extremely challenging conditions.
Skegness station manager Gary Millson said his firefighters faced numerous obstacles from the outset but dealt with them in a capable and professional manner.
“The crews worked very hard especially during the first few minutes,” he said.
“Initially just two engines arrived on the scene and they immediately realised it was going to be a far bigger job.
“There was a shortage of water which we also had to divide between protecting the neighbouring building and extinguishing the pub fire.
“It was very difficult and there was a lot of hard work involved.”
Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue received the emergency call at 9.54pm and two engines from Skegness arrived just eight minutes later.
“They could immediately see that they would need the hydraulic platform and from the outset they were struggling with water pressure so they asked for the water bowser,” said Mr Millson.
In fact, the water situation at Vicars Point was so poor that even with the bowser the crews still had to use a nearby swimming pool to help tackle the flames.
And with the neighbouring arcade barely a metre away from the burning pub, the firefighters also had their work cut out to prevent the fire destroying more property.
“Not only did we have the fire to extinguish in the pub we also had to make sure the neighbouring building, which was only a metre away didn’t catch a light as well,” Mr Millson explained.
Thankfully, the quick thinking bar staff had successfully evacuated the pub before the firefighters’ arrival, enabling them to focus on the fire rather than rescuing trapped people.
But with the fire starting on the first floor, Mr Millson said many of the staff and visitors were unaware of the dangers until a last minute dash to escape.
“When the fire was first spotted it was a thriving bar with 60 or 70 people all unaware that there was a fire burning above their heads,” he said.
“The staff had to act very quick to evacuate - you could tell how quick because there were still full pints of beer sitting on the bar and tables, which people don’t normally leave unless they’re in a real hurry.
“I think the bar staff did a great job once they realised the fire was in process - they even did a final sweep to make sure no one was in the toilets to confirm with our crews that the place was 100 per cent evacuated which is always good to arrive at.”
But even once the threat to civilian life was removed, there were still great dangers facing the firefighters.
“Roof fires are always very difficult because there’s no easy access - putting water on the top is no good and so you have to remove the tiles from the outside, which means putting firefighters into areas of uncertainty and danger,” Mr Millson said.
Once the blaze started to die down the investigation into its cause could begin - the blaze is now thought to have started because of an electrical fault with the neon lights on the outside of the first floor.
He says the problem is a common concern for seaside resorts and had played a major role in two other high profile fires in recent history.
“Buildings like the Square Peg and Lucky Strike were both aged buildings which had been designed as hotels but had changed to an unrecognizable degree and so the electrical systems are more of an issue,” he said.
“When everything is lit up with neon lights and there are lots of electrical machines the law of averages means that sooner of later we will have a problem.”