Sunderland chef relives ordeal as fire-hit city pub reopens

The Saltgrass reopens after the fire. Chef Lee Bulmer
The Saltgrass reopens after the fire. Chef Lee Bulmer

A Sunderland chef has spoken of the terrifying night he was rescued from the roof of a burning Sunderland pub.

Lee Bulmer was asleep in his flat above The Saltgrass at Deptford when the blaze broke out just days before Christmas.

Police and fire investigators at the Saltgrass in December

Police and fire investigators at the Saltgrass in December

Fire tore through the bar and restaurant - but the pub in Hanover Place has now reopened and Lee is back in the flat.

He has now spoken about what happened.

“It was half one and the smoke alarm went off,” said Lee, 45.

“I could see smoke coming through the open bedroom window - my bedroom was directly above the room that was on fire and I could see the black smoke.

I got my kitchen window open and managed to get out onto the flat roof outside, barefoot in the cold because I did not have time to put my shoes on.

Lee Bulmer

“I got my kitchen window open and managed to get out onto the flat roof outside, barefoot in the cold because I did not have time to put my shoes on.

“I rang the fire brigade and luckily, they are just at the top of the bank, so they were there within minutes.

“They just put the ladder against the wall and I climbed down.”

Lee believes the situation could have been far worse.

The Saltgrass's restored restaurant

The Saltgrass's restored restaurant

“It could have been a fatality,” he said.

“There were a couple of firefighters who came out that I actually know and they were saying you can’t take more than two breaths of that black smoke.

He is delighted to be back in his flat after it was given a thorough cleaning.

“The smoke just got into everything,” said Lee.

Part of the new look

Part of the new look

“It even got into the kitchen cupboards.”

Pub boss Veronica Burridge said the venue had been badly damaged by the blaze.

“The restaurant was gutted, and through in the bar some of the ceiling was gone and it was badly smoke damaged,” she said.

Customers who had booked Christmas lunch have been refunded,

“We had 92 booked in and luckily I was able to give everybody their money back.”

It had not been possible to let everyone know what had happened, however.

Emergency services at The Saltgrass after December's fire

Emergency services at The Saltgrass after December's fire

“It was only five days before Christmas,” said Veronica.

“We managed to get hold of just about everyone but one couple came down for lunch and got the shock of their lives.”

It had been a frustrating few weeks while the repairs were carried out: “We were trying to clean upstairs but the workmen were up and down, so it was pointless until they got the work done.

“We have managed to save a lot of the fittings and thankfully, we are up and running again now.”