The conflagration at Playden on June 29 reported in Rye News destroyed or badly damaged two houses at Poppyfield, Houghton Green Lane and the Fire Brigade believe it may have been started by an unattended bonfire.
It started in the garden of No. 6, the home of Mr Robin Smith. He had made a small bonfire earlier that morning, he said, and damped it out thoroughly as he thought, before going into Rye to do some shopping at Jempson’s. He was away about 1½ hours and returned to find his house on fire.
He realised that a spark from the dormant bonfire may have flared up and reached his store of gas cylinders that he used for cooking. Two or three of the cylinders had exploded, setting his house on fire and also that of his neighbour.
There were some 16 cylinders in all, some of them empty, that Mr Smith had purchased over the years, whenever he found a cheaper source of supply. Some of the cylinders bought for £18 were now priced at £66, he told me.
The next morning, Saturday, police and fire appliances were still at the site. East Sussex Fire and rescue Service later confirmed that the fire resulted from the unattended bonfire, adding further that around 70 people had been moved to a nearby school while firefighters tackled the incident.
Following the investigation Group Manager Pup Upton has this advice around bonfire safety: “We would recommend that residents do not have a bonfire in their garden, as there are far more environmentally-friendly ways of disposing of garden waste. For example, through the local authority bin collections, or at the local recycling site.
“Bonfires are not good for the environment, or your neighbours, no matter what time of the day it is. However, if you must have a bonfire then burn in smaller quantities, in a purpose-built incinerator and do not leave unattended. Also, ensure that you have water, as well as a hose on-hand, to put the fire out in the event of an emergency. Do not leave the fire unattended …. and don’t have a bonfire on a windy, or very hot day.”
Photos: Kenneth Bird