STAFF had to evacuate a fish and chip shop after a fierce blaze started in its ventilation system on Thursday last week (20 August).

Two people were preparing to open for the evening at Seafare in St John’s when the fire broke out in an extraction duct.

The shop in Hermitage Road filled with thick black smoke, which bellowed out of a chimney alongside a flat on the first floor. Eight fire engines were sent to deal with the incident, which started just before 5pm.

Seafare managing director Jonny Ayling said no-one was injured by the fire. “The staff got out safely, helped by a member of the public who had seen what was happening,” he said. “We are still assessing what happened, but there is a lot of smoke damage.”

Craig Morgan, who lives in the area, saw the fire as he was driving towards the shop. “I’d just got to Winston Churchill School and had to pull over to let fire engines pass by,” said Craig, who took aerial photographs of the scene using a camera attached to a drone.

“I could see smoke billowing out from one of the chimneys attached to the building. The windows of the shop were already black from the fire and there were a lot of people gathering to see what was happening.

“The smoke was quite thick, and the smell was awful.”

The shop opened after a brief lockdown closure on 14 April. “We were building up our trade again to get through the crisis,” said Jonny. “We have had a lot of goodwill messages from customers saying they are really sorry about the fire and hope we will be back soon.”

Two of the fire appliances sent to the incident came from Bracknell and Ascot fire stations, part of Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Jonny said he had spoken to Surrey firefighters who attended the fire, who explained that the brigade was unable to crew several of its appliances each day because of firefighter shortages. He urged the public to sign an online petition opposing a reduction in fire cover at

“We would like to say a massive thank you to our wonderful fire service, who arrived promptly and did all they could to get the fire out,” he added.

A Surrey Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “We received a call at around 5pm to a report of a fire at Seafare in St John’s

“Eight fire engines were sent in total, with the first arriving at around 5.10pm. A fire on the ground floor of the shop had caused approximately 51 to 100 square metres of damage.”

Fire crews were at the shop until around 8pm making sure the fire was completely out.