Firefighters remained at the scene at Cottesmore Hotel, Golf and Country Club at Pease Pottage this morning. Meanwhile, club gym member Danny Ellis told of the moment the blaze broke out.
“I was in the changing rooms after finishing in the gym at around 4.30pm when the fire alarm went off,” he said. “We thought it was a test, then it went off again. Staff came running from everywhere clearing everyone out, making sure everyone was safe.
“We got outside. There must have been 40 or 50 people there including staff. The fire was just billowing out. The fire brigade turned up and started pumping water from the lake.
“There was nothing anyone could do. It was sad watching the old building, the fire was raging. It was absolutely bellowing out. We knew it was going to take the whole thing.
“I just felt sad for the owner who was standing outside with his hands on his head. But everyone was safe, that was the main thing. The staff were amazing. They evacuated everyone to the correct place. It was brilliant.”
Danny, 41, and his novelist wife Sheona, from Handcross, have been members of the country club gym for some time. Danny, who works as a floor layer, said he goes there almost every day. He said evacuees’ cars were directed across the golf greens as they left the hotel - a popular venue for weddings.
Ten fire engines were at the scene at the height of the blaze and crews worked through the night to extinguish the fire. They remained at the scene this morning, damping down and checking for hotspots. The cause of the fire is now being investigated.