Witnesses tell of restaurant fire drama

Victoria NichollsWitnesses have spoken of the drama that unfolded when a blaze broke out at a Bungay restaurant on Saturday.Victoria Nicholls

Witnesses have spoken of the drama that unfolded when a blaze broke out at a Bungay restaurant on Saturday.

Four fire crews were called to Bahn Thai restaurant on Earsham Street at shortly before 2.20pm and the building was evacuated.

A spokesman for Suffolk fire service said the fire was believed to be contained in the first floor storage room and that the second floor was heavily smoke-logged.

Bungay trader Jenny Stephenson raised the alarm after realising something was wrong as she crossed the road from her business, The Wedding Shop, to her other shop, Jenny, which is next to the restaurant.

'There was smoke coming out of the window, I could see how the window was turning black,' she said. 'I ran into Lodge Cordell and just screamed for someone to dial 999. There was just black, black smoke. It was absolutely awful.'

She said she saw smoke starting to come down the stairs, adding: 'That's when the windows blew out. I thought it was an explosion but it was the heat.'

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Mrs Stephenson said she was relieved to find that no-one was hurt and that two people working in the restaurant at the time who were in the cellar and kitchen both managed to get out quickly. The restaurant is on the ground floor of the three-storey terraced building.

She said her shop that adjoins the restaurant only opened last Saturday after a huge refurbishment was lucky to escape damage because the fire was in another part of the property.

She pointed out the buildings in that part of the street were all old and terraced, adding: 'It could have been an awful lot worse.'

Crews from Bungay, Beccles, Halesworth and Harleston in Norfolk were called to the scene, as was the hydraulic platform from Earlham and the command support vehicle from Bungay. By 3.15pm crews had brought the fire under control.

A Suffolk police spokesman said one person was treated for smoke inhalation and that the fire was not being treated as suspicious.

Sally Hardwick, from the Earsham Street Caf�, said: 'We saw the fire engines and police cars going past and the whole road was closed.

'We were absolutely rammed for lunch so we didn't really see what was going on to start with. We had to go out on the street to see. All I could see was smoke coming out of the chimney and out of the upstairs window.'

Restaurant staff were seen clearing out damaged items from the restaurant, which was closed following the incident. The owners did not wish to comment.