Seaham chip shop owner feared for his life in hotel blaze

Firefighters examine the scene of the fire at the disused Harbour View Hotel.

Firefighters examine the scene of the fire at the disused Harbour View Hotel.

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A businessman has told how he feared for his life after fire ripped through a former hotel and bar next door to his chip shop.

Seaham’s Harbour View is now in ruins after a blaze tore through the three-storey property on Sunday night.

Jeremy Elder outside his cafe in North Terrace, Seaham, near the Harbour View fire.

Jeremy Elder outside his cafe in North Terrace, Seaham, near the Harbour View fire.

Much of the North Terrace building has been destroyed, with seven fire appliances and dozens of firefighters working throughout the night to put out the fire.

Police closed the road because of concerns over the safety of the building’s structure and also falling debris.

An investigation to determine the cause of the fire is being carried out today.

Bricks from the roof of the building fell on to the roof of the next door flat above Gills Fry Fry takeaway shop.

Firefighters tackle the blaze at the Harbour View Hotel in Seaham. Pic: Neil Greenwood.

Firefighters tackle the blaze at the Harbour View Hotel in Seaham. Pic: Neil Greenwood.

Owner David Gill, who is also landlord of The Lamp Room coffee shop, said: “I was in the shower at the time after we’d closed for the night. I saw smoke coming through the shower and thought ‘that can’t be from the shower itself surely’.

“Then I just heard bells ringing and people banging on the doors, so I decided to get out. There was a woman on the top floor of the Harbour View, but she managed to get out OK.

“I heard the fire started on the middle floor. We don’t know what happened yet, it could be an electrical fault or something else.”

The 38-year-old, who has run Gills Fry Fry for the past two years also operates food outlets in Sunderland, added: “If the fire had spread to the gas pipes, we could’ve all been blown up. It’s very lucky that no one has been hurt.”

Another view of firefighters at the Harbour View blaze. Pic: Gurdeep Singh.

Another view of firefighters at the Harbour View blaze. Pic: Gurdeep Singh.

Mr Gill said he expects to re-open today.

Jeremy Elder, 45, who owns Leaf, Bark and Berries coffee shop next door to the Harbour View and lives in the flat above his business, said: “That place has been closed for quite a while.

“I remember a locksmith coming to change the locks and the electricity being cut off. The roof’s totally gone now and it looks like some of the floors have too.”

A spokesman for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said: “The fire was reported at 10.19pm on Sunday, with seven appliances and two aerial ladder platforms attending.

“Two appliances were still at the scene on Monday morning to put out the fire.

“A multi-agency meeting between ourselves, the police and building control is taking place, as we are concerned about the structure itself, as it’s in a dangerous condition.”