A WOMAN has told how customers were still eating their meals as a major fire raged on the roof of a Port Solent restaurant.
Hundreds of people in the leisure complex had to be evacuated after the fire ripped through the roof of Casa Brasil, in Boardwalk, on Saturday night.
However, a 27-year-old woman from Gosport, who asked not to be named, has told how it took several minutes for people to be evacuated from the eatery after the first fire alarm sounded.
She said the diners had only just managed to flee the building in time before flames engulfed the roof.
The former Royal Navy physical training instructor added: ‘There were three alarms that went off.
‘It was only on the third one that we were told to stop eating and leave as there was a fire on the roof – they were still serving food until then.
‘When we got outside there was already this grey smoke coming from the roof.
‘Within two or three minutes of getting out, the whole roof was on fire, with flames reaching about 10 foot and black, acrid smoke coming from it.
‘We just couldn’t believe we had been left to eat in the restaurant while that was going on above us. It made me really angry.’
There were about 130 people eating in Casa Brasil when the fire ignited.
The restaurant’s owner, David Hall, claimed it took nine minutes to issue the evacuation order and said as the fire was hidden away in the roof, staff were unsure if the alarm related to the restaurant or a nearby site.
‘As soon as we saw smoke coming from the roof that’s when we evacuated people,’ he added.
Firefighters from Southsea, Cosham, Portchester and Fareham were alerted soon after, at 10pm.
Forty-five firefighters tackled the blaze and police and ambulance crews were also called to the scene, as well as the fire service’s aerial ladder platform.
Craig Sadler, watch manager at Cosham fire station, was in charge of the operation and said no-one was injured.
‘It was evident from the start that this was a severe fire which had broken out through the roof,’ he added.
The flames was extinguished in just over an hour.
It is believed to have been sparked after a bird’s nest near a roof extractor fan caught fire.
Mr Hall added: ‘I want to thank the firefighters for their professional in dealing with the fire – they were stunning.’
The site has suffered extensive damage to the roof and water damage inside. The restaurant is expected to reopen in a week.