31 May 2013…..NB. As further information is provided, this post will be edited to keep the text as current and accurate as possible.
About 3:55pm Robert Nemeth posted a tweet asking if anyone had info regarding reports of a fire at Medina House. This was reported to the Argus half an hour later and the fact that there was a fire was verified by a saveHOVE supporter living in the Esplanade colony. A resident on her balcony at Bath Court noticed smoke coming out of the front window area about 3:45 and her husband called the fire brigade who arrived some 10-15 minutes later. A resident from St. Aubyn’s Mansion reports a second lot of engines arrived to provide further support.
A Sussex Road resident was on the beach taking a break from home working, mug of tea in hand, when he smelled smoke and heard someone say “the old building’s on fire!“. He belted home and also rang for the fire brigade and he reports the following from where he stood in Sussex Road watching :
“Two firepersons with breathing apparatus entered the house via the back door of Medina House which the fire brigade had smashed open. The first pair were in there for what seemed between 30-40 mins in which time I presume they extinguished the fire and searched the premises for occupants. During this time they smashed a section of the stained glass windows from the inside. They were replaced by two more waves of firepersons with breathing apparatus. At the same time the front of the house was being doused with water from a crane“.
A look on the ESFRS website shows the Medina House fire call(s) logged at 3:45pm. It would be interesting to know how many calls they eventually had.
A good 40-45 minutes later, just before 5pm, a strong smell of smoke, five fire engines, 2 fire service cars, police on foot and police vehicles blocking access to the Esplanade greeted my arriving eyes – more than an hour after the fire had first been reported. Smoke poured from the upper half-moon window and fire fighters wearing breathing apparatus were hosing water through it from atop their hoisted crane.
As I write I have no idea when the fire started or how many people called the fire brigade. But on a bright sunny day, with warmth having drawn many people to balconies and the seafront, there was no shortage of people to notice when it became apparent there was a fire at Medina House. When did the fire start? Did anyone see activity in Medina House, any comings or goings? What time were the fire brigade called?
Residents reported to attending fire and police officers that scaffolding came down the day before the fire, following completion of a roof repair to some missing tiles and that an enforcement deadline expires tomorrow, the 1st of June. The scaffolding bit is true, but it may be that wrong enforcement information unwittingly came from this website! From a 2012 post! A lesson for me not to rely on people to note the dates articles here are uploaded (at the end of the articles) and to use day, month and YEAR in them! None of the saveHOVE supporters are aware of any new outstanding s215 Enforcement orders. But a new one is now surely in the offing, eh?
NB. Saturday, 1st June 2013. I have amended the old material to show 2012 in a picture caption and in the title to stop the confusion. I hope.
What follows now is important information which should be passed on to neighbours in the Esplanade area or who were around when the fire started and/or was reported. Who saw what and when over recent days too. And a picture gallery follows.
WHAT THE FIRE SERVICE SAY
Fire investigators provided the following information: A sofa, in the centre of an otherwise empty first floor room, about fifteen feet in from the middle window, is thought to be the seat of the fire. The fire is said to have burned upwards through the floor into the attic area. A bystander said that, on arrival, the fire service broke windows to gain access .
WHAT THE POLICE SAY
This fire is being treated as suspicious. Plain clothes detectives arrived after the fire was extinguished and as the fire engines were emptying out the dregs of water left in their hoses and storaging them back on their trucks. It has become the subject of a criminal investigation. Information is obviously needed by anyone who knows anything.
There is an incident number but not until or unless it is deemed that a crime has been committed will there be a crime number. If you can provide the police with any information you believe will be helpful to investigation of this fire, please call the police and quote:
Incident number 0898 of 31.5.13
PC Hall (CH059) provided the incident number and was writing a lot of stuff down on a form on a clipboard so you might mention his name. The card I was given with details written on it had 101 as a non-emergency contact phone number and the old 0845 60 70 999 was crossed out. I’d email if I was any of you wanting to provide something constituting real evidence.
Try Detective Constable Darran.Newman@sussex.pnn.police.uk if you think you are a material witness, have information about comings and goings (and any stayings) at or around Medina House, etc. He was one of the CID detectives who came in after the fire was put out. I didn’t ask the names of the others. The police website suggests anyone wishing to report anything can email firstname.lastname@example.org
It was kind of a cliché TV-like moment when the CID arrived. I was getting info from the Fire Inspectors about the seat of the fire when the one I was speaking with spotted three men in suits – cliché deadpan expressions – almost lazily emerging into the action with that distinctive slow, slightly swaying and purposeful look about them that was unmistakeably CID and he nodded and murmured “Here comes the CID”. Detective Constable Darran Newman from CID seemed so chillaxed as he casually took information that was being made available to him at the scene before he and his colleagues vanished into Medina House.
The fire service and the police have been provided with the name of the officer heading BHCC Enforcement – currently Aidan Thatcher. It was Gerard McCormack who dealt with us and the state of the building and squalid out-of-control vans situation in spring 2012 and gave us the meeting with himself and the Conservation officer attended also by ward Cllr Andrew Wealls and Hove MP assistant Robert Nemeth. Alas, Mr. McCormack has left BHCC for the sunny uplands of Tower Hamlets and Aidan Thatcher is now heading Enforcement. Police and fire inspectors were informed of the s215 Enforcement Order having been raised with a June 1st, 2012 deadline and of the lengthy ownership and planning story. They were invited to have a read on this website using the ‘Medina House’ tag to gain some background and look at our sad photos.
PLEASE NOTE EVERYONE THAT MEDINA HOUSE IS IN THE CLIFTONVILLE CONSERVATION AREA AND ON THE BHCC LOCAL LIST OF NOTABLE BUILDINGS BUT IT IS NOT ENGLISH HERITAGE LISTED. IT IS NOT A LISTED BUILDING.
Forgive me, but explanatory picture captions will have to come later bit by bit.