FIREFIGHTERS are back at Cafe Shore in Sandbanks this morning after diners were evacuated during an electrical fire last night.
Firefighters have predicted that Cafe Shore, in Banks Road, Sandbanks will have suffered “extensive” damage after a reported electrical blaze that began moments after diners were plunged into darkness.
At one point, there were eight fire engines at the scene, as well as support vehicles, and those living in neighbouring properties were evacuated.
A spokesperson for Dorset Fire and Rescue said: "A total of 43 firefighters tackled the property fire on Banks Road, Sandbanks last night together with a number of supporting crew and officers.
"The cause of the fire was an electrical fault and the property was destroyed by fire and smoke.
"Crews are returning at various times to carry out reinspections to manage the heat which is still retained within the walls of the property."
Eye witnesses reported seeing plumes of the choking smoke rising from doors and windows as tens of firefighters battled to find and extinguish the blaze.
Jasmin Snook, 22, said: “I haven’t seen any flames at all – just smoke. “There were loads of firemen just going in and out of the building.”
Paul Denham, owner of Sandbanks stores
Paul Denham, owner of Sandbanks Stores which is next door to Cafe Shore, said that one of their employees cycled to their house last night to tell them about the fire and the fire travelled through to their shop in the roof and smoke came through to the shop.
There is smoke damage to some of their stock including clothing, however they remain open today.
Most of the flats above the premises remain empty after the fire.
The owner, Ben Brafman, was not available for comment this morning.
One member of staff at the scene said there were around 100 people booked in for a meal last night.
“It was the beginning of service, which is why it is so quiet.
“This is the busiest week of the year, so everyone is just devastated.
“The staff did a superb job getting everyone out.”
He said the staff have regular fire training.
It is believed the fire was caused by an electrical fault and may have started in a electrical meter.
Around 11.20am today Cafe Shore posted the following message on their Facebook page: "At 6pm on Monday 18th August 2014, an electrical fault in a store room behind our bar resulted in a devastating fire that swept through the restaurant and bar areas of Café Shore.
"Needless to say, we feel incredibly lucky that nobody was hurt.
"We would like to thank the firefighters at Dorset Fire and Rescue Service for their heroic actions in making the area safe and ensuring that the damage was limited.
"We would also like to thank our team at the restaurant, who acted quickly and professionally in leading the evacuation and ensuring the safety of all concerned.
"The outpouring of support from customers, locals and businesses has been incredibly encouraging. We thank you all.
"We are not sure when we will be 100% up and running again."
Kate Hellmers, a resident who lives in a flat above Rumsey Holiday Homes on Banks Road, said she was just arriving home last night and found her daughter, Hadley Helmers-White, coming out of the flat with their cat in a basket.
They had to go and stay with Kate’s partner last night.
Luckily there is no physical damage to the flat but as they were leaving there were around 12 emergency vehicles on the scene.
She said they were worried as they didn’t know if it was going to get any worse.
David Butcher was rowing back from a North Haven Yacht Club mooring when he saw the fire engines arriving, and took photographs of firefighters entering the rear of the building.
He said: “I saw that there was obviously something going on so waded around to take a look. “There was a great deal of smoke.”
Joanne Bishop, 43, said: “I’ve never seen so many fire engines in my life. “I went out to dinner with my husband and saw the first fire engines coming along the road. When we came back, there were queues of traffic and all sorts going on. It’s a real shock and I’m so sad to see the restaurant like this.”
Incident commander Jason Moncrieff said significant smoke damage had been caused to Cafe Shore.
“At the moment, crews are trying to locate and fully extinguish the fire,” he told the Daily Echo tonight. “It seems to be moving from place to place.”
However, he said no casualties had been reported, and all had been evacuated in good time.
An employee of the restaurant, who didn’t want to be named, said: “My manager said we had to evacuate.
"There was some electrical problem and all the electricity went out. Three minutes later, there was smoke everywhere.”
He said there was just one table of diners when the fire began, and added: “We were very lucky.”