By James Robinson

A PUB boss has praised the quick response of her staff after they were forced to evacuate dozens of customers during a dramatic kitchen blaze.

Manager of the John Russell Fox, Charlee Blanchard, was thrilled at the reaction of her welldrilled employees, who ushered over 30 customers out of the High Street pub on Sunday after a freezer unit burst into flames.

Staff evacuated the pub shortly before 3pm, while crews from Andover, Whitchurch and Winchester quickly arrived to battle the ceiling-high flames.

Using three jets, crews managed to extinguish the blaze 20 minutes later.

The fire destroyed the freezer unit and left several ceiling tiles blackened.

However no-one was hurt in the incident and Ms Blanchard was full of praise for her staff and the fire service for their quick reaction.

She said: “I was very impressed by all of my staff and how they responded to the emergency.

“You never know how people will react to emergencies like this but full credit to my team for the way they deal with it.

“My duty managers, Shannon Johnson and Kelly Fiddes, did really well in handling the situation.

“I’m also hugely thankful to the fire brigade who attended very quickly and made sure the fire didn’t spread any further.”

Reacting to the fire, she added: “I was amazed how quickly it all happened.

“I’ve never had a fire before.

In my last pub in Amesbury part of the roof collapsed but I’ve never had anything like this before.

“I’m thankful because it could have been a lot worse.”

Despite the dramatic incident, the pub was opened the next day.

However the kitchen remained closed and staff were unable to serve food while a full clean-up took place.

The kitchen was back in operation on Tuesday morning.