Fire puts hotel out of action

11 fire trucks called to battle fire

TESSA JOHNSTONE
Last updated 19:57 31/08/2014
Lower Hutt hotel fire
@nzgirlemd/Twitter
Smoke pours from the Exchange Hotel, in Lower Hutt.

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A suspicious fire has put a Lower Hutt bar and hotel out of action for at least a few days.

The two-storey Exchange Hotel, on the corner of Queens Drive and Kings Cres, was reported to be on fire about 7.30am today and 11 fire trucks and specialist units attended.

Trinity Group managing director Jeremy Smith said the fire appeared to have started in a vacant bar and cafe which adjoined the hotel.

''The manager, who lives in the apartment upstairs, raced down and discovered it was a fire ... it started in the kitchen of the old Two Black Sheep and the smoke came seeping through to The Exchange.

''The manager promptly evacuated the building and called the fire brigade, who arrived en masse and pretty quickly put out the fire.''

There was quite a lot of smoke damage, which will keep the doors shut for at least a few days, but at least everyone in the building had got out safely, Smith said.

There were about eight guests staying in the hotel at the time, and Smith said they had been accommodated elsewhere and guests who were due to arrive today had also been shifted.

"Everything's under control but we're a bit disappointed because the business was just starting to build again and it's disappointing that just when things were looking good we've had this small setback.''

Trinity Group - who run a number of hotels, bars and venues - have been involved with running the bar previously, but recently entered a lease agreement directly with Foodstuffs, who own the building.

Smith said everyone was a ''bit bemused'' as to how the fire started and wouldn't be surprised if it was suspicious.

A police spokesman confirmed that detectives were investigating and the fire was being treated as suspicious. 

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- The Dominion Post

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