Huge fire destroys East Sussex theatre & studio

Huge fire destroys East Sussex theatre & studio

A theatre and studio complex in East Sussex has been ravaged by a huge fire.

The blaze broke out at the Phoenix Theatre and Studio building on Saturday (March 29th) at approximately 18:00 GMT.

At the peak of the flames, in excess of 70 firefighters were on the scene quickly in a bid to tackle the blaze, as the warehouse was very close to the local fire station.

East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service received more than 20 calls from those who could see the devastating fire destroying the complex on North Street in Lewes.

The blaze was extinguished by about 21:15 GMT and fire crews were joined by members of the Environmental Agency, due to fears about the public’s safety as a result of the asbestos in the roof.

Some firefighters remained at the scene until Sunday morning.

A fire service spokesman told BBC News: “This particular incident had the potential of being quite disastrous.

“Thankfully the occupiers identified the fire early and we managed to make an intervention which [meant], although there’s significant damage to the building, we stopped the fire from spreading to adjacent areas.”

Witness Adrian Sunderland told BBC News that the Cliffe Bonfire Society was using the theatre for an event and that, as they were setting up, they suddenly smelt burning and smoke, which had an “unusual acrid smell”.

“Within a few minutes, the whole building just erupted into flames completely. The speed at which it took hold was phenomenal.”

Althought nobody was injured in the fire, Mr Sunderland revealed some artists had lost their entire life’s work as a result of the flames that engulfed the building.

The cause of the flames is currently unknown, but it is believed to have been started accidentally by a wood burning stove.

Commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales are already forced to undertake a ‘suitable and sufficient’ fire risk assessment carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

While the overwhelming majority of premises do this, if the assessment is thought to have been carried out to an insufficient extent, the Responsible Person can face an unlimited fine or up to two years in prison.

Sign In

Sign Up