THE most historic pub in Milton Keynes has burned to the ground - less than two hours after a single spark set its thatched roof on fire.
The drama at the 13th century Swan Inn in Milton Keynes Village started at 3.47pm this afternoon.
According to eye witnesses a new delivery of logs had just been made to fuel the pub’s open fire in the main bar.
“The delivery man was putting logs onto the fire and a couple of us thought he was putting too many on,” said customer Brian Rimmer.
“I think somebody even commented that there were too many logs.”
Minutes later the pub’s smoke alarms sounded and all areas were evacuated.
“Some sparks had shot up the chimney and set the thatched roof on fire,” said Mr Rimmer.
Brave staff members climbed ladders in a bid to stem the flames with fire extinguishers, he said.
“But it just spread too quickly. There was no way they could stop it,” he said.
The blaze was so serious that every firefighter in the city was called out.
With all 40 firefighters busy, retained volunteers from Woburn fire station have been called in to mange the rest of Milton Keynes.
On Monday the pub celebrated the completion of an extension thought to have cost £250,000. It launched its Christmas menu on the day of the fire in preparation for the busiest time of the year.
Though the building is now destroyed, firefighters will work through the night if necessary until the blaze if extinguished.
A fire spokesman said: “Extinguishing thatch fires is a laborious process as thatch is designed to repel water.”
Firefighters have to physically remove the thatch, chunk by chunk, and extinguish it on the ground.
They have brought in a specialised BobCat vehicle – an agricultural-style bulldozer to help them with their task.
A firespokesman said: “Dealing with a thatch fire is very labour intensive. It’s going to be a long job but our firefighters will work all night if necessary.
“We have 40 firefighters at the scene and all are doing their very best to save this historic building.”
For a video of the fire, CLICK HERE
Steve Wilkins who runs the pub said: “Our immediate concern was the safety of our customers and staff and I’m pleased to confirm that no-one was injured in the fire.
“However, we’re devastated to see what’s happened and I’m sorry for the inconvenience this will cause our customers. We’ll assess the site when it’s safe to do so and will be back open as soon as possible.”
The pub is owned by Charles Wells and Operations Director Craig Mayes added: “It’s too early to identify the cause of the fire, or the extent of the damage but our priority now is to work with Steve and his team to restore the business.
“If anyone has a booking at The Swan Inn, they’re asked to ring the Charles Wells helpdesk on 01234 279105 during working hours (9am to 5.15pm Monday to Friday) for further information and for us to help them with making alternative arrangements.”