Restaurant owner ‘devastated’ by huge blaze

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The owners of a popular restaurant have been left devastated after a huge blaze destroyed their business and a well-known pub.

Fire crews were called to The Dressers Arms and Little Hong Kong Oriental Restaurant on Briers Brow in Wheelton, near Chorley, shortly before 6am on Thursday and found flames pouring from the building.

Aftermath: The burnt-out  Dressers Arms pub and Little Hong Kong eatery.  Photos: DONNA CLIFFORD AND ALEX GILLIBRAND

Aftermath: The burnt-out Dressers Arms pub and Little Hong Kong eatery. Photos: DONNA CLIFFORD AND ALEX GILLIBRAND

The pub, located below the family-run restaurant, also suffered significant damage in the blaze. Residents in nearby houses had to be evacuated while firefighters battled the blaze.

The cause of the fire has not yet been confirmed and damage costs are expected to run into the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Dave Catterall, co-owner of Little Hong Kong, said: “There is devastation throughout the family. It was a great Easter for us and we’ve been trading excellently. Business is probably the best it has ever been. A lot of blood sweat and tears went into that place and now it’s gone.”

Fire investigators were today trying to work out what caused the blaze.

More than 50 fire officers were called to the scene to put it out.

Crews had to pump water from the Leeds-Liverpool canal, which is approximately half a mile away, to help calm the fire because of its severity.

A specialist air unit was brought in from Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to help assess the damage. The unit can capture and record images and footage from the air.

Tony Crook, group manager at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, said : “At the moment we can’t pinpoint an exact area where the fire started.

“The fire was very serious and we had to utilise crews and then do some offensive fire fighting which helped us stop the fire. We successfully did that but both the pub and the restaurant suffered severe damage.”

Mr Catterall added: “We don’t know what caused the fire and we will wait to see what the officers say.”

Crowds gathered on the pub car park, opposite the building, to watch the fire crews tackle the blaze, with some breaking down in tears at the sight of the damage.

Matt Trafford, a former employee at Little Hong Kong and a resident in the area, said: “My bedroom window looks straight across into the restaurant. When I woke up at 7.30am and looked outside it was just billowing with smoke.

“I feel sorry for the owners of both the pub and restaurant. This is a close knit place and everyone knew each other. There is just devastation all around the area.”

Ian Grundy, a resident on Briers Brow, had to be evacuated when the fire broke out. He said: “I heard a knock on my window about 5.30am and it was somebody from the ambulance service saying I must get out.

“I came outside and the fire didn’t seem too bad then after a few minutes it just went up.

“I want to praise the firefighters, they’ve done a great job in calming things down.”