A SOCIAL club is counting the cost this morning after a freak blaze caused thousands of pounds of damage.
Flames ripped through the bar at South Hylton Club in Sunderland yesterday after fire started in an ice-making machine.
The club’s steward Hilton Horton, who lives above the bar, discovered the fire at 10.30am as he was about to open up for the day.
Now the popular club, off South Hylton’s High Street, will have to remain closed while Northern Powergrid investigate the cause of the blaze and give the green light to start trading again.
Mr Horton, who has worked at the club for 15 years, says the clean-up operation will run into thousands of pounds and the 16-strong staff will be affected by the closure. The 64-year-old said: “When I came downstairs, I could smell the smoke.
“It seemed to be coming from the end of the bar, so I went to have a look.
“The smell was coming from the ice machine, I didn’t think much of it and just thought ‘what’s that?’ and opened it up.
“But when I pulled the cover down, flames came rushing out.”
Mr Horton pulled the ice machine’s plug out and rang 999 but the fire had already ripped through the bar and melted the back door to the club.
He said: “All of the back door has melted and the optics have smashed.
“It’s a right mess. It’s going to cost thousands to sort out.”
The steward, who wasn’t injured, was also thankful the fire started when it did, so he could catch it early on.
He added: “It’s just as well it didn’t happen in the middle at night, or who knows what would have happened.
“The damage could have been a lot worse.”
Twelve firefighters from Sunderland’s North Moor and Central stations were called to the club, in Ford Lodge West, to tackle the blaze and clear smoke.
Axe-wielding firefighters also cut away internal walls to make sure there were no smouldering embers after the flames were extinguished.
A spokesman for the fire service said an electrical fault is believed to have caused the fire, which is not being treated as suspicious.
The club is expected to remain closed until electricians from Northern Powergrid declare it safe and a clean-up operation can take place.
Watch manager Davey Bell, from North Moor Station, said two smoke alarms would be fitted in the steward’s flat as a precaution.