Wickham Market: Pub fire investigation continues

A Fire Fighter from Leiston and Aldeburgh works on damping down the fire at The George Pub in Wickha

A Fire Fighter from Leiston and Aldeburgh works on damping down the fire at The George Pub in Wickham Market that caught fire early Thursday morning. - Credit: Archant

A VILLAGE has been left without its last remaining pub after a devastating blaze reduced it to near ruins.

John Parnell, landlord of The George, in Wickham Market, which once boasted five pubs, said he had lost everything in the blaze, after escaping through a small bathroom window in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Police are treating the fire as suspicious and continue to carry out an investigation into the exact cause.

Friends and neighbours of Mr Parnell promised to rally round and help in any way possible.

The landlord was woken by an explosion sometime after 2am and emerged from the bedroom to discover thick smoke and flames advancing up the stairs.

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With all exits blocked, he clambered through a bathroom window in only his underpants and landed on the pub’s smoking shelter, where he was found by quick-thinking neighbour Geoff Walton, who had already called the fire service.

A shaken Mr Parnell, whose wife was away from home for the night, said: “I heard a big bang and thought it might have been a car crash. I got up, saw the flames and thought ‘I’m out of here’.

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“It was amazing how quickly it spread. The fire alarms were going off and I didn’t know what was happening. I just got out as quickly as I could.

“Everything has gone. There is no upstairs. It’s not just the building – it’s my life, and my home.

“My neighbours and the emergency services have been brilliant – I can’t fault them.”

Five fire crews were alerted to the blaze at 2.25am after receiving several calls from members of the public.

When crews from Woodbridge, Framlingham, Saxmundham, Orford and Ipswich East arrived on scene there was initially concern that people may have been inside the pub, but by 3am everyone had been accounted for.

The flames had been bought under control by 7am, by which time the roof had been completely destroyed. Mr Walton, who dragged his neighbour from the pub’s smoking shelter roof and also leant him a set of clothes, said: “I heard a big bang. When I saw what was happening I called the fire brigade. That’s when I went round and found John.

“All that matters is that he’s okay. We’ll look after him.”

Investigators visited the scene yesterday and police closed High Street in both directions near to the Chapel Lane junction.

Meanwhile, UK Power Networks engineers temporarily switched off power to 60 homes in Wickham Market to help police and fire crews to safely carry out their investigations.

The fire is being treated as suspicious. Officers are asking anyone who may have been in the area overnight to come forward if they saw anything suspicious, and are also keen to speak to anyone with information that may help the investigation.

If you can help, call Suffolk Coastal CID on 101.

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