Bernard Drew responds to Dennis Bater's frustration over the George Hotel fire in Dec 2008
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Page updated: June 11, 2009

Fire in The George - a follow up

From Bernard Drew:  Former Officer in Charge, Hatherleigh Fire Station

I find it quite strange and very unprofessional that Dennis Bater an ex-fireman feels that he is in a position to criticize the efforts of  the Fire Brigade at the recent fire on 23rd December at the George Hotel Hatherleigh when he was not involved.

I am also an ex-fireman 'from the old school' and fought thatched roof fires alongside Dennis and he knows as well as I do it is not always possible to make fire breaks when you get a very quick spread of fire in the roof space.

One fire springs to mind that I worked on with Dennis at Chattafin Farm Exbourne. We lost that roof because of quick fire spread. 'What happened there Dennis?' 

I agree that in theory a firebreak is what is needed but is not always possible and he must agree that most thatched roofs is accessible from both sides of the building which makes it much easier to tackle, unlike the George Hotel where the roof was of such a design that it was impossible to tackle it from all sides.

I think Dennis should appreciate the efforts of the crews to stop the fire from spreading to adjoining properties instead of criticising them.

I would like to add that most thatched roof fires start from around the chimney and has a simmering effect before developing into something more serious giving crews more time to attempt a firebreak.

From what I can gather the construction of lathe and plaster, internal walls and ceilings at the George Hotel and 600 years of debris and cobwebs in the roof space, any responsible fireman (even Lesley Orgar) would agree that as soon as a ceiling burns through and air along with fire rushes in to the roof space there is little hope of stopping the rapid spread of fire as was the case at this particular incident.

I did not serve as long as Dennis in the Fire Brigade but some people learn quicker than others! Perhaps Dennis should take up the position of Training Officer in the Fire Brigade (who knows owners of thatched properties might then get a reduction in their fire insurance premiums).

Bernard Drew



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