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Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's River Cottage 'Severely Damaged' In Huge Fire (PICTURES)

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Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage caught on fire
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage caught on fire

A huge fire at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage has left the celebrity chef's farm park "severely damaged."

Fearnley-Whittingstall is away filming, but the huge blaze which broke out around 10pm last night has left the River Cottage team "shocked and upset", it was reported.

The gardener who lives in a flat in the restored farmhouse raised the alarm on Tuesday.

The cause of the blaze at the chef's River Cottage headquarters in Axminster, Devon is unknown. However the seriousness of the fire meant eight fire engines and 80 firefighters were called to the farm's commercial kitchen last night.

The roof of the cookery school kitchen, in a barn at the farm, has been completely destroyed by the fire, with much of the wood charred and blackened. However fortunately no people or animals were hurt.

The fire was brought under control after nearly three hours and there were no injuries.

A spokesman for River Cottage said: "Late last night a serious fire severely damaged the main barn at River Cottage Park Farm headquarters in Axminster.

"The River Cottage team are dealing with the damage today and are shocked and upset.

"Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is away on a long-distance filming trip and will be informed as soon as he can be contacted.

"The River Cottage team would like to say a big thank you to the fire brigade, who were on the scene quickly and worked hard to contain the fire."

A spokesman for the fire service said:

"One fire appliance from Colyton and one fire appliance from Axminster attended with Watch Commander Richards in charge.

"Upon arrival, fire crews requested a further three fire appliances from Seaton, Lyme Regis in Dorset, and Honiton; a compressed air foam systems appliance from Chard in Somerset; together with the incident support unit and a supporting appliance from Exmouth and the water bowser from Danes Castle, Exeter.

"A hazardous materials and environmental pollution officer and fire investigation officer was also mobilised to this incident.

"The single-storey building was well alight, measuring 30 metres by six metres, used as a commercial kitchen."

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said the barn also houses a cooking school and contains around 10 ovens, each connected to individual gas cylinders, which were involved in the fire.

Members of the Salvation Army also attended the scene to provide catering for those affected by the fire and members of the emergency services.

The River Cottage Canteen and Deli at Axminster was unaffected and is open today, a spokesman said.

But the cookery school courses at Park Farm will not be running in the short term.

"Anyone booked on a course will be contacted by the River Cottage events team as soon as possible," a spokesman said.

River Cottage managing director Rob Love praised firefighters and said the 17th century barn was "well gone" by the time he arrived
"As you can see, it was a very sad sight this morning," he said.

"We are all very upset here at River Cottage that a beautiful barn is gone. We have spent a lot of time and effort to get this barn restored.

"We are just glad that nobody was hurt - we are just thinking how lucky we are."

Fearnley-Whittingstall, a chef, writer, broadcaster and campaigner, moved into the original River Cottage in Dorset in 1998 to start growing and rearing food of his own.

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