A chip shop devastated by a fire earlier this year has defied the odds and re-opened this weekend (31 July).
Statistics show that eight out of ten businesses* which suffer a major incident, such as a fire, never re-open or close within 18 months of the incident.
Businessman Sid Appleby, from North Tyneside, is still counting his blessings that no-one was injured after the fire broke out at his fish and chip shop in West Moor on 29 April.
Staff at South Gosforth Fisheries, on Great Lime Road, escaped with their lives after fat burst into flames and spread throughout the shop in seconds in the fire. They were preparing the oils and equipment for opening at 11am when one of the pans became too hot and suddenly ignited. One of the women threw a fire blanket over the pan, but the fire was so ferocious it burned straight through.
Sid said: "I have been in the fish and chip shop industry for years but I was completely shocked at the devastation the fire caused. My staff are well trained and know what to do in the event of a fire. I am extremely grateful that they were unharmed, although we are still shocked at how fast and dangerous the fire became - literally in a matter of seconds as well as the damage it caused."
After three months of extensive re-furbishment the chip shop re-opened on 31 July.
Sid said: "I was lucky in that I was insured so I was covered for the damage to the equipment and shop but you still underestimate the amount of time and effort it takes to get the shop sorted to re-open again. My main concern now is that after being closed for three months that my customers will have gone elsewhere. I know the next couple of months are going to be difficult. I can really understand how some businesses never open their doors again."
Mr Appleby praised the crews at the time of the fire and is now encouraging other takeaway owners to ensure their staff are well trained and well equipped in case of a fire. He said: "I want to use this opportunity to tell other people who work with deep fat fryers and oil filtering machines to regularly carry out staff training regarding their maintenance processes and to make sure they do fire safety drills. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to maintain your equipment, and the annual steam cleaning process I use is a wise investment."
Mr Appleby's advice comes after a number of fires at chip shops and takeaways in Tyne and Wear. The latest being at Dillons Chippy in Hazelrigg in North Tyneside where a member of staff suffered burns as a result.
Group Manager Darren Boddy, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We have had to deal with several fires caused by deep fat fryers at takeaways and restaurants in the area recently, and this highlights the importance of fire safety education. Fryers, ranges and thermostats should be kept well maintained. If there is a fire, the gas and electricity supply should be turned off.
"If a fire is well developed, you should never attempt to tackle it and you should get out, stay out and call 999. It is also very important to carry out thorough staff training and practice regular fire drills so they are aware of what to do in the event of a fire. It is only hoped that raising awareness of this will prevent fire deaths and injuries in the future.”
Owners and managers of fish and chip takeaways and restaurants and other fast food outlets can pick up free safety advice by calling 091 444 1004 or by logging onto http://www.twfire.gov.uk
Top Tips -
Keep an up to date fire risk assessment
Clean oil regularly
Carry out staff training and regular drills
Regularly maintain your filters, grease traps, extractors, fryers, ranges and thermostats
Keep fire escape routes clear
Fit thermostatic controls and cut off valves
Invest in appropriate extinguishing equipment
In the event of a fire -
Alert all staff
Switch off Services
Shut lids to fryers
Close all doors
Get out, stay out