THE A358 has now reopened as firefighters have worked through the night to extinguish a major roof fire at The Farmers Arms pub in Combe Florey near Taunton.

They arrived shortly before 3.30pm to reports of a fire and a Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said although the number of crews at the site had been scaled down, firefighters would be on the scene overnight and into this morning.

Avon and Somerset Police have confirmed the A358 around the area was reopened around 2.30am this morning after it was closed just before 4pm yesterday.

The majority of engines left the scene around 2.30, but crews have returned to the scene this morning (January 12, 11.30am) with a thermal imaging camera to check for hot-spots and to ensure the fire will not spark up again. 

Somerset County Gazette:

Shortly after midnight, a Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: "This incident involved a fire involving the thatched roof of a public house measuring 30m by 10m.

"The roof has been severely damaged by fire. In total, eight breathing apparatus sets, two hose reel jets, three main jets, one light portable pump, one compressed air foam branch, ladders and water from a high volume pump were used to extinguish the fire.

"A thermal imaging camera was used to check for hotspots and fire spread.

"Crews are still at the scene and are likely to be in attendance through the night. The number of pumps in attendance is being scaled down."

Somerset County Gazette:

The owner of the pub Tim Young said the fire was 'numbing'.

Meanwhile, the fire has left the chef homeless as he lives at the pub and is now having to look for somewhere else.

Fire incident commander, Chris Pratt, told the County Gazette the incident was a "significant fire".

He added: "When crews first arrived there was smoke issuing from the thatched roof.

"Shortly after the fire broke through the roof and as far as we are concerned, our biggest issue was getting access to the property.

"Crews got to work using water jets and compressed air foam jets.

"They created a fire break in the thatched roof but the incident is still on-going.

"There is significant damage to the thatched roof and to the first floor.

"Everyone was evacuated and no one has been injured but an ambulance is here.

"We expect we will remain here through the night it is a significant fire and we need to limit fire damage and water damage.

"We are trying to salvage what we can from the property."

Somerset County Gazette:

Crews from Taunton, Wellington, Williton, Wiviliscombe, Nether Stowey, Tiverton, Dulverton, Minehead and Bridgwater attended reports of a roof fire at the pub on the A358 Taunton Road around 3.30pm on Wednesday afternoon.

Owner Mr Young said: "I wasn't in the building at the time but had a phone call at around 3.30pm saying the roof was on fire so I headed down.

"The fire crews were here within 20 minutes.

"They have been trying to save the kitchen area and have been successful fo far, but the wind keeps picking up which starts the fire again.

"It's numbing.

"I've only been running the pub for 18 months, we had really started to build it up and the past few months it has been really successful.

"It's a real kick in the teeth, we have a really good team here.

"It's a shame because it's a beautiful 15th century building."

Somerset County Gazette:

There were around 20 fire appliances at the scene, and one eyewitness told the County Gazette that smoke was billowing across the road, like a "thick fog."

The A358 at Combe Florey was closed immediately with traffic queuing in both directions between Ash Priors and West Bagborough.

A diversion is in operation - for westbound traffic to leave the A358 at the junction for the B3224 and head towards Elworthy and Monksilver. Eastbound traffic vice versa.

Steve Holwill, a regular at the pub, said: "It's a tragedy, it's the main place to meet people in Combe Florey.

"It looks like it is badly damaged but hopefully it can be fixed relatively soon."

Somerset County Gazette:

Julian Notley is a neighbour who called the fire brigade.

He said: "I called the fire brigade at 3.25pm and the crews were here within 20 minutes.

"The crews have done a superb job."

Somerset County Gazette:

HGVs and large vehicles may be held or turned around at the closure points.

A spokesman for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue said yesterday there were 12 engines on site.

Somerset County Gazette:

(Fire engines at the scene. Picture by Harriet Withams)

"The crews are concerned the strong winds could fan them flames, especially as there are overhead power cables close by," he added.