Kris and Lisa Orme, who run The Harrow Inn in the small hamlet of Lidsing are backing Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s (KFRS) campaign encouraging people with open fires and wood burning stoves to have their chimney flues swept and maintained before lighting the first autumn fire.
The events of 18 December 2010 are still very painful for the couple as Lisa recalls: “It’s really not a nice place to be - where you have no business and no home for eight months."
With snow on the ground, it was a cold night so Kris and Lisa lit an open fire in the main bar, unaware that there were two dislodged bricks in the chimney stack next to the roof void. As a result, the roof of the pub caught fire. Lisa explained: “When our alarm system was triggered, we went upstairs to rescue the dog, I put my hand on the wall – it was hot and was actually bubbling. We then got out of the pub and could see tiles coming off the roof – it was frightening.”
At the height of the blaze there were six fire engines at the scene, but it wasn’t until the next morning that the full impact was apparent, Lisa said: “Seeing my daughter’s clothes and teddy bears all charred on the ground outside really hit me hard. Even though people were telling me my daughter was fine - she’s not here; it was the thought of what might have been.”
Aside from the emotional impact and the loss of the family home, financially the effects on the business were catastrophic. The pub could not trade for eight months and lost thousands of pounds from the Christmas, New Year and early summer trade; however the pub eventually reopened in August 2011.
Despite having routine annual maintenance, including a sweep of their chimneys, the couple’s experience was life-changing. As Kris explains it has made the couple even more conscientious about chimney safety: “We replaced the open fires with enclosed log burners. We have the chimneys swept at least once a year, sometimes twice, and we always ensure that a thorough inspection is carried out”.
Kris continued: “We want to help prevent others from going through the same heartache we suffered. It’s so important to maintain your chimney and if you’re a tenant, it’s vital you make sure the people who own the building are maintaining it thoroughly on your behalf.”
Lisa added: “Always use a professional to look at your chimney and ensure it’s ok to use by the time you need to use it. Don’t leave yourself wide open to experience the pain we did.”
Kris urges: “Importantly make sure you can keep your family and customers safe.”
To help people who own properties with chimneys, KFRS has launched a new free service to remind people when the time comes to start carrying out those important checks. Lisa and Kris are in full support: “People need to sign up to the Clean Sweep Alert. Hopefully it will give people that gentle reminder that will help keep their business, home, family and customers safe from fire.”
Please sign up for KFRS ‘Clean Sweep Alert’ it's free, very quick and simple to register.