Owners’ anger at long wait for fire crews after blaze
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