Firefighters were called at 7.30pm yesterday to The Boat House in the Marina in Ferry Road, Littlehampton, after a neighbouring businessowner spotted smoke pouring out of an air vent.
After the tea towels were tumble-tried, they were stacked on a shelf in the kitcken, according to business owner Julie Fear. But the residual heat and cooking oil caused them to start smouldering, causing widespread smoke damage throughout the café. The heat melted the PVC walls in the kitchen and burst a water pipe, which flooded the restaurant; but thankfully major equipment like the oven and hobs have not been damaged.
Julie said when she saw the damage last night, her first emotion was ‘devastation’ – but she felt ‘lucky that it wasn’t worse’: “I’m a very positive person, anyone will tell you that. I don’t do negative.
“I would like to say a massive thank you to the fire brigade; my dad was a fireman for 25 years so I have the utmost respect for them. I’ve told them when we’re open again they are to come in for a free Full English.”
After the fire was put out, many of Julie’s friends and family stayed until midnight to clear the water up, and members of the public have reached out to offer support.
Julie said: “The response from people has been lovely; it makes you feel very humble.
“We have got a really good community in Littlehampton.”
She also warned people to let tumble-dried tea towels cool down before storing them: “I was told by a firefighter that this isn’t uncommon anymore. Everybody needs to be made aware of the dangers.”
The café by Littlehampton Marina has been open since May. As a result of the fire, it will be shut for two-weeks while the restaurant gets a deep clean and superficial damage is fixed.
Julie has had to cancel a soul night function on Saturday, as well as 18th and 60th birthday parties, which will be a big loss of income. She said: “I don’t like disappointing people at all, but it’s out of my control”.
Chef Stuart Harmer, 41, from Chichester, said he ‘felt sick’ when Julie told him the news last night. He said the fire brigade delivered a ‘first class response’: “It is a credit to them that we should be able to reopen in a couple of weeks’ time because the fire could have spread to a fryer, and you don’t want to think of the consequences of that.”