Huge fire engulfs 400-year-old hotel housing Ukrainian refugees

More than 30 people were evacuated from the building, West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service said

Eleanor Noyce
Thursday 16 March 2023 17:03 GMT
Fire engulfs hotel ‘housing hundreds of Ukrainian refugees’

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A 400-year-old hotel in West Sussex that was housing Ukrainian refugees has been engulfed by a fire.

The blaze was first reported at 1.08am on Thursday, with ten fire engines, an aerial ladder platform, water carrier and off-road vehicle initially working on the scene in Midhurst.

Originating in the hotel’s roof space, a “significant” fire had spread to the adjoining properties, West Sussex Fire & Rescue service said.

The blaze at the hotel broke out in the middle of the night
The blaze at the hotel broke out in the middle of the night (Hilton Holloway via REUTERS)
More than a dozen fire engines attended the incident
More than a dozen fire engines attended the incident (PA)

More than 30 people were safely evacuated, with a relief centre set up for those displaced.

As the flames worsened, assistance was later provided by Surrey Fire & Rescue Service, Hampshire & Isle of White Fire & Rescue Service, Sussex Police and South East Coast Ambulance Service, amounting to 15 fire engines.

Now, the local community is rallying together to provide emergency aid for the Ukrainian refugees who were evacuated from the hotel.

Having dipped into its existing fundraising pot to help, local charity Petworth Ukraine Relief has been raising money since the war began, gathering aid locally and shipping the contents from West Sussex to Ukraine.

Andrew Ashton-Smith, a sales engineer from the nearby town of Petworth, volunteers with the charity. He described the fire as “harrowing” but said the local community is doing everything it can to help those in need.

"It has been a harrowing set of events for them, particularly as some have been faced with seriously war-torn arrangements to start with”, Mr Ashton-Smith said.

Fire engulfed several buildings in Midhurst, West Sussex
Fire engulfed several buildings in Midhurst, West Sussex ( (Hilton Holloway/PA))
Firefighters dealing the remnants of the fire in the hours after the blaze
Firefighters dealing the remnants of the fire in the hours after the blaze (PA)

"I feel shocked, but more keen to try and make sure that we can do all we can to help the Ukrainian families here as some of them have children”, he added, noting that his daughter goes to school with some of the Ukrainian children impacted by the blaze.

“Due to the significance of the fire, Joint Fire Control mobilised 15 fire engines, two aerial ladder platforms, two water carriers an off-road vehicle and high volume pump to the scene”, West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service told The Independent.

“More than 30 people, including a number of Ukrainian refugees, were safely evacuated from the buildings, and they are now being looked after in a local relief centre.

“A number of crews remain at the scene and are working hard to extinguish the fire which spread to adjacent properties.

“We anticipate that North Street will remain closed for some time, so we would ask that residents avoid the area and use alternative routes.

“The cause of the fire remains under investigation by fire investigation officers, supported by Sussex Police.”

The cause of the fire is being investigated
The cause of the fire is being investigated (PA)
No-one was injured in the late night fire
No-one was injured in the late night fire (PA Wire)

Councillor Eileen Lintill, leader of Chichester District Council, expressed her sympathies for those impacted by the blaze. She described it as a “terrible ordeal.”

“All occupants were safely evacuated by West Sussex Fire and Rescue, and they are now being cared for within our rest centre”, Ms Lintill said.

“This must have been a terrible ordeal for those affected and our thoughts are with them. Our staff are currently doing everything they can to support them.

“Local residents are being advised to keep their doors and windows closed, due to the smoke that is still in the area.”

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