Own­ers’ anger at long wait for fire crews af­ter blaze

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Nuts & Bolts - By Matt Le­clere

A cou­ple who run a pop­u­lar cafe say they have been left dev­as­tated af­ter a fire ripped through its kitchen, caus­ing ma­jor dam­age.

The blaze at the Air­port Cafe in Sellindge broke out on Mon­day morn­ing when a fire was sparked in­side the grid­dle.

Pa­trick and Julie Breen, who live in Willes­bor­ough, say they feel let down by the fire ser­vice af­ter it took nearly 40 min­utes for crews to en­ter the build­ing.

Staff called 999 at 9.52am but Mr Breen says it was nearly 10.30am when the first of three fire en­gines ar­rived.

The pair say the slow re­sponse – which is thought to have been a re­sult of Ash­ford crews at­tend­ing a crashed Spit­fire near Wood­church – has added tens of thou­sands of pounds of dam­age.

Mr Breen said: “We re­ceived a phone call from a mem­ber of staff to say one of the grid­dles was alight.

“I could hear another chef in the back­ground say­ing it was get­ting worse.

“I was at home in Ash­ford and im­me­di­ately put some clothes on, got into my car and headed straight here.

“A fire en­gine had over­taken me com­ing from Ash­ford, which I nat­u­rally as­sumed was head­ing here.

“I got here and there was no sign of a fire en­gine any­where.”

Mr Breen said he ran into the build­ing to see if there was some­thing he could do him­self in a des­per­ate at­tempt to save the fam­ily’s busi­ness.

He said: “I was watch­ing the build­ing go up in flames. There were flames com­ing from the grid­dle area so I iso­lated the elec­tric­ity sup­ply. The smoke was quite acrid, so I thought I’d bet­ter come out and leave it.”

Mrs Breen’s fam­ily has owned the cafe for 57 years and she took over run­ning it from her par­ents when they re­tired more than 20 years ago.

She said: “It wasn’t a fire you could get to. It was con­tained within the grid­dle so you couldn’t put a damp cloth over it as it was in­side a unit. That was the prob­lem we had.”

Mr Breen added: “I called 999 again and said ‘what the hell is go­ing on’. They said ‘we’re try­ing to get ra­dio con­tact be­cause there’s been an in­ci­dent in Ash­ford’.

“So I said ‘isn’t there a fire en­gine that could come up from Folke­stone?’

“We’re not talk­ing about 150 pas­sen­gers, we’re talk­ing about one Spit­fire. Did that wipe out the ser­vices out for the Ash­ford and Folke­stone ar­eas so that we didn’t get ser­vice? That is not on.

“Whether it’s gov­ern­ment cut­backs, KCC cut­backs, some­body is re­spon­si­ble. This is the first time I’ve ever called the fire brigade and I feel com­pletely let down.

“It’s now dev­as­tated our busi­ness and I don’t know what we’re go­ing to do. To get our busi­ness back up it could be a month be­fore we’re any­where near.”

Pa­trick and Julie Breen, who run the Air­port Cafe, say they are dev­as­tated and feel let down by the fire ser­vice

The Air­port Cafe in Sellindge

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