Firefighters' nine-hour battle to halt Brixham blaze
FIREFIGHTERS have spoken of their battle to stop a fire which destroyed a Brixham newsagents spreading to other properties at the heart of the port.
They had to contend with a warren of buildings built into the cliff face, steel shutters and narrow alleyways.
Around 90 firefighters from around South Devon spent nine hours tackling the blaze at Harbour News in Fore Street.
They continued to douse hotspots throughout the weekend to make sure the fishing port's historical town centre did not go up in flames.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Fire investigator George Setter said a combination of factors made the job extremely difficult.
He said while smoke detectors had been fitted to the upper levels of the newsagents, there was none in the shop area where the fire started.
He said: "It could have provided an earlier warning to both the occupants and the firefighters."
Mr Setter said the narrow three-storey building, a series of steps going up the cliff face and the warren of buildings made for a difficult job.
He added: "Access was really difficult. The power was off so we couldn't put up the motorised steel roller.
"We took the decision to go round the rear to get into the property.
"It was a very complex job and was extremely challenging for the crews.
"The fire quickly went up and spread to the rest of the building. There were smoke detectors in place which worked. "
The fire crews managed to cut through the shutters and were able to tackle the blaze on various fronts from the rear, the front and from above thanks to the aerial platform.
Chris Boston, crew manager with the red watch Torquay fire station, said: "There were 15 pumps and the aerial platform working at it. We worked very hard to save the shops on either side."
At the height of the inferno, some 90 firefighters battled the blaze with pumps from Brixham's retained fire station, Paignton, Torquay Ivybridge, Exeter, Crediton, Honiton, Ashburton and Plymouth together with Totnes Incident Command Unit, and Torquay's aerial appliance.
A police helicopter also provided cover and used its heat-seeking camera to help locate the fire and hotspots.
A police spokesman said: "It was clear the fire was in a very confined area of the town with very limited access and there was the potential for the fire move to adjacent properties.
"The helicopter dropped one crew member off at Berry Head with a down-link receiver which is a laptop type device which displays a live video stream sent from the helicopter.
"Fire commanders were able to use the thermal imaging on the aircraft, hovering above, which clearly showed seats of fire not previously seen and formulate plans to tackle them."
One theory is that fire may have been caused by an electrical fault inside the ground floor shop area.
Fire investigator Setter praised newsagent owners Peter Kenneby and Julie Aconley and their two children for doing the right thing when the smoke detectors went off.
He said: "They smelled smoke and evacuated the property before calling us out. They did everything right. It is a very difficult time for them. They have lost their business and their home.
"This is likely to have a big impact on the community but this is an opportunity for the community to rally round."
A spokeswoman for the adjacent Co-op store said: "The fire resulted in considerable amount of damage to our store, which meant we were closed over the weekend while repairs were carried out. After essential maintenance work was complete, the store team worked hard to clean up the smoke damage to open for business as usual on Monday.
"The Post Office remains closed while further repair works are carried out but we aim to reopen this service as soon as we can."
Filios Tsigarides the owner of the coffee shop the other side of the newsagents, said his shop had suffered smoke and water damage.
But he said: "It's a miracle. The damage is only superficial. I've been so lucky."
The trader, who has been in Brixham for 17 years, witnessed the incident as it unravelled through the night.
He said: "The fire brigade was out here quickly. They worked really hard to contain the blaze and stop it from spreading."
A Torbay Council spokesman said: "A building control officer visited the site, which has been fenced off, on Monday morning. We have been liaising with engineers appointed by the site owner's insurers, and we will continue to liaise with them."