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Hooden on the Hill pub in Ashford on fire

By Matt Leclere

A popular pub has been destroyed after a fire ripped through the 17th century building this morning.

The Hooden on the Hill in Willesborough in Ashford, was ablaze and 40 firefighters were tackling the flames - but the roof and first floor has collapsed in at the back of the building.

Kent Fire and Rescue says it is believed the fire started in the kitchen area but firefighters have managed to stop the fire spreading to the whole building.

No one was hurt in the fire
No one was hurt in the fire

Crews managed to contain the blaze to the back of the building but it is reported two thirds of the pub could be ruined.

Neighbours have been left in shock as they watched their local burn while the pub's owners, managers and staff looked on.

The pub is a popular destination for nearby residents and people throughout Ashford.

Firefighters used breathing apparatus, two hose reel jets, two jets and a fog spike. A height vehicle was used as a water tower to help prevent the fire spreading.

The call came in at 10.49am and no one is thought to be hurt. Within minutes the pub was engulfed in flames and white smoke was seen billowing from the building.

The fire started in the kitchen
The fire started in the kitchen

Firefighters are expected to be at the scene for the rest of the day.

Silverhill Road has been closed between the M20 bridge to just after the pub.

Jon Robertson, a neighbour who has lived nearby for 15 years and is a regular at the pub, said the pub is at the heart of the community around Willesborough Lees.

Video: Firefighters tackle the blaze

"My wife saw smoke coming from the pub and I ran out the door and I saw there was thick smoke," he said.

"Within three or four minutes there were huge flames coming out the back. Everyone was out of the pub at the time, so there was no one in there."

"It was raging badly for about fifteen minutes before they managed to dampen it down. I was worried at one point about it catching the house next door but luckily the wind was blowing in the other direction."

The height vehicle has been spraying the building to cut the fire off
The height vehicle has been spraying the building to cut the fire off

Speaking to KentOnline, Rupert Roberts, the firefighter in command, said: "It's got many voids and it's traditional construction and has five separate pitches where it's been extended over the years.

"It isn't clear where it started - investigations are still being undertaken on that - but it's in the rear of the building in the region of the kitchen and spread unchecked through the voids in the walls and voids.

"When we arrived it was very well developed and spread from the ground and into the first, second and into the roof floor levels.

Rupert Roberts, the firefighter in command, speaking to KentOnline
Rupert Roberts, the firefighter in command, speaking to KentOnline

"We managed to cut the fire off and spreading to the front of the building.

"The two front pitches - which are first, ground and lower ground level - we've managed to prevent any further damage to those.

"We're trying to salvage the maximum amount of property we can for the owners and the occupiers to reduce the amount of tragedy as far as they're concerned.

Video: Rupert Roberts reacts to fire

"It's been a very serious fire. Luckily we prevented it spreading once we arrived.

"Unfortunately it spread it all the way through from the lowest level to the highest and through the roof.

"The roof at the rear have collapsed and the contents are burned and lying on the floor level of the ground floor.

"They are very difficult buildings. We've got equipment we now use to stop fire spreading through voids we didn't have years ago. The most recent equipment we have to put in voids is a high pressure spray to stop that spreading and we've used that today.

"We'll be here probably for the rest of the day."

Six crews on site
Six crews on site

The popular establishment is a traditional country pub and was built in 1649 as a coaching inn.

The bar is situated on the lower level with the kitchen and dining room to the back with living accommodation upstairs.

Bus services are being redirected because the road is closed while firefighters secure the area.

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