A POPULAR social club is back in business tonight, days after flames ripped through ones of its bars.
South Hylton Club, in Sunderland, was forced to close its doors to drinkers after a freak blaze on Sunday morning caused thousands of pounds of damage.
A suspected electrical fault sparked the blaze in an ice-making machine, which luckily was spotted by the club’s steward Hilton Horton, who lives above the bar, as he was about to open up for the day.
The workingmen’s club, off South Hylton’s High Street, had to close while Northern Powergrid investigated the cause of the blaze, and gave it the green light to start trading again.
Tonight its lounge will open again at 6pm, although the badly-damaged bar is expected to take weeks to repair.
Mr Horton, who has worked at the club for 15 years, said most of the club’s 16-strong staff were expected to be back at work.
“We didn’t think we would be open so soon, but the electricians that have been in have done a really good job,” he added.
The 64-year-old managed to save the club from further damage after discovering the fire at 10.30am, before the club opened for business.
Speaking to the Echo in the aftermath of the fire, he 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 added: “It wasn’t until the next day that it really hit me.
“My flat is just above the bar and it happened at 1am, then I might not have been here.”
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 using high-pressure fans.