Pub and charity come to the rescue to help families whose homes were evacuated in Norwich fire
A community pub turned into an emergency refuge for people fleeing their homes after a fire.
The Stanley on Knowsley Road opened its doors to shelter families evacuated from their houses when a blaze broke out on the street on Wednesday night, amid fears the fire would spread.
Staff and customers at the pub are now rallying round to help those who lost belongings and have been left temporarily homeless.
Barman Dan Allen had been preparing to lock up when he saw fire engines roaring towards the blaze at around 11.30pm, and immediately opened the doors to keep stranded families warm and safe, serving hot drinks until 3am.
'We were going to close but we stayed open to get everyone a cup of tea,' said the 25-year-old.
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'There was no way we were going to shut. These people were freezing outside.'
Debbie Lamb, a barmaid at the pub, said customers were already discussing how they could continue to help those affected fire, with a fundraising collection suggested.
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'People have been very shocked by the fire, and concerned at what's happened to the families,' she said.
'Some of them didn't have insurance and may have lost a lot in the fire, so it would be really good if the community could get together to help.
'We've discussed maybe doing a collection, or of everybody chipping in to do something for them.
'There's enough selfishness in the world so it would be nice if we could help out some people in need.'
Ms Lamb, 47, said the Stanley was known for its strong community feel and as a pub that looked after those around it.
'Everybody knows everybody,' she said. 'People come here because their fathers came here.
'It's the kind of place where the hand of friendship will always be there when it's needed.'
And she said that without the pub's customers on the night of the fire, it may not have been open to offer refuge.
'If we hadn't been busy on that night, we would have been closed by 11pm and not known about the fire.
'But we were busy, and so we were there when the help was needed – and of course we offered it.'
The fire broke out in the loft conversion of a terraced house on the road, prompting neighbouring properties to be evacuated for safety.
Some neighbours waited in the cold and received help from British Red Cross volunteers, whose Fire and Emergency Support Service was called to the street to help people who had been made homeless.
Neighbour Brian Thompson, 65, escaped serious damage to his home but his walls and ceiling were still damp yesterday from the amount of water which had been sprayed on the roofs of the row of homes.
'I was getting ready for bed when I saw the fire engines come up,' he said. 'I came out and stood outside until about 2.30am waiting in the cold. It was chaos outside.'
The British Red Cross then arranged for him to stay at Premier Inn on Duke Street.
He thanked the Red Cross for giving out coffee and biscuits and phoning his insurance company.
Chris Beecham, 47, who lives next to the terraced house where the fire started, woke up to the smell of smoke.
'It was very smoky,' he said. 'I thought it was our wood burner. But I looked outside and all hell was breaking loose.'