Seaham pub badly damaged in blaze - investigation underway

Firefighters spent three hours fighting a big pub blaze in Seaham in the early hours of today.

Four crews and an aerial turntable ladder were called to The Avenue just before 1.30am today, where the upstairs of Bar Avenue was well ablaze.

The roof has been destroyed, but it is not believed anyone was in the pub, which recently underwent a change of owners, at the time.

Steven Guy, 37, who lives over the road, said: "I just heard a massive bang. I looked out of my bedroom window and saw the flames getting worse.

"There were only two fire engines there at the time, and then a few more came round the back way.

"It's generally open on a night-time, not during the day. Nobody lives in the flats above, not since my friend had it years ago.

The scene today at Bar Avenue in Seaham after an overnight blaze.

The scene today at Bar Avenue in Seaham after an overnight blaze.

"I'm just shocked. It was really bad, horrendous."

A 33-year-old woman, who did not want to be named, said: "The bang woke me up when the windows went.

"I got up and watched it. I was worried it would spread downstairs because the gas would have blown.

"The roof caved in. I'm just devastated for the people who own it."

The Bar Avenue pub at the height of the blaze.

The Bar Avenue pub at the height of the blaze.

The venue’s landlord Andrew Baker said: “I got a call at 2am from a neighbour and came down.

“We haven’t been allowed in yet because of the fire and police investigation, but once we are we’ll look at the damage and see if we can go about opening again.”

Steve Wharton, group manager with County Durham & Darlington Fire and Rescue Service said the first 999 call was received at 1.24am today.

"There were quite a few calls in fairly quick succession, saying there was a significant fire in the upstairs flat of the property.

Flames leap through the roof of the Bar Avenue pub in this reader's picture of the blaze.

Flames leap through the roof of the Bar Avenue pub in this reader's picture of the blaze.

"We sent crews from Seaham, High Handenhold, Durham and Peterlee, and at the height of the blaze they were joined by an aerial platform ladder.

"A team wearing breathing apparatus was deployed into the flat to check there was no one in there, and quickly established that there wasn't.

"We withdrew them because parts of the floor were starting to fall away into the pub below, and the roof was coming in.

"This is where the aerial platform is a great firefighting tool, to get some water onto the fire from above.

"It took about three hours to put it out. The flat suffered extensive damage, and part of the floor has collapsed into the bar below, so it's a bit of a mess."

A Northern Gas Networks engineer was at the scene this morning, and a joint police and fire brigade investigation into the cause of the blaze is set to get underway once they are satisfied the building is safe to enter.

A fire engine at the scene of the blaze as morning breaks. Pic: Nicky Middleton.

A fire engine at the scene of the blaze as morning breaks. Pic: Nicky Middleton.

Police at the scene of the blaze at Bar Avenue in Seaham.

Police at the scene of the blaze at Bar Avenue in Seaham.

The roof fell in during the blaze at Bar Avenue in Seaham.

The roof fell in during the blaze at Bar Avenue in Seaham.