Original article from Kent Live
A Sevenoaks pub which was tragically destroyed by a devastating fire is planning a comeback – and the owners are determined to not be held back by the disaster.
Images emerged of the Green Man pub in Wrotham up in flames last Thursday (June 17) as firefighters attempted to prevent further damage.
At the height of the blaze five fire engines, a height vehicle and a bulk water carrier were present at the historic Holdsoll Street pub.
Despite the efforts of the emergency services however, not much could be saved.
Signing up to the KentLive newsletter means you'll get the latest news direct to your inbox twice a day.
It couldn't be simpler and it takes seconds – simply press here, enter your email address and follow the instructions. You can also enter your email address in the box below the picture on most desktop and mobile platforms.
You can also sign up to our website and comment on our stories by pressing here and signing in.
Aerial shots of the fire's aftermath revealed just how little was left of the pub, with the interior gutted and only the front and one side wall remaining in tact.
The cause of the fire has not yet been confirmed by Kent Fire and Rescue Service.
However it is believed to have been caused by a lightning strike during the storms that swept through the countyin the early hours of June 17.
Alex Brooks co-owns the 19th century pub with his partner Steph Hunter and they the building on around four years ago.
Alex spoke to KentLive about that fateful night and the aftermath as he and his team attempt to pick up the pieces.
Looking back on the morning of the fire, the 33-year-old said: "I wasn't staying on site that night. I finished early, probably the first time since we reopened [after lockdown].
"I got a phone call from one of my neighbours at about half past three saying the pub was on fire.
"I kind of got myself dressed and I was there about 15 minutes later – that was a strange, strange car ride.
"When I arrived the firefighters were on the scene – there were a few of the neighbours outside of their houses, and we just kind of had to stand back and watch."
By the time Alex had got there, however, the blaze was past the point of no return.
He added: "I think by that point there was there was no going in, the structure was just too unsafe."
Though admittedly not an especially emotional person, it was clear that losing the pub had taken its toll. Alex said: "It's gutting, everything that you put in something just going up in flames and smoke.
"It was pretty heart wrenching.
"I've never had to deal with anything quite this – catastrophic, I suppose is the word."
After losing everything in the fire Alex and his team have started to look to the future, meeting earlier this week for the first time since the pub went up in flames.
He said: "Last night (June 21) we went out for a few drinks and it was nice to kind of see everyone back together again – we're doing okay.
"It was nice to just get everybody together and share some memories and discuss how we're gonna move forward."
Reopening won't be easy and even without the pandemic being a drain on funds for the hospitality industry, rebuilding from scratch is a tall task.
However, there is a glimmer of hope as Alex and Steph look to the future.
A GoFundMe fundraiser was launched by a regular customer.
It has currently collected more than £7000 in donations, a good way over the initial £5000 target.
The couple, who live in West Malling, are also expecting an update on their insurance in due course, which should give them a boost in restarting.
However they're not relying on these avenues alone as there are also plans for limited reopenings as soon as this summer.
"I think in the short term, we're planning on getting open for at least a couple of live events or quite possibly hopefully kind of getting open in the garden for the rest of the summer months," added Alex.
"Obviously that's dependent on if we can get the site secured – if we can get what's left of the pub demolished we might actually be able to start doing things.
"I've had the support and backing from pretty much everybody in that village so it's been really nice."
Alex also took a moment to express his gratitude to the firefighters who came out before dawn to fight the blaze that consumed the pub.
He told KentLive: "I want to say a massive thank you to all the firefighters that came out that night.
"They are just incredibly brave guys and girls and they just throw everything at something like that and it's incredible to watch them work.
"I want to try and organise some kind of event fundraiser for them as well.
"If those funds can be used in any way to look after the staff and make sure the pub gets gets rebuilt then that's our goal."
The overriding message from Alex was one of sadness, but resolve, much like a post made to their Facebook page the evening after the disaster.
He simply said: "We will rebuild the pub, we will be back, we will rise again."