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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 September 2005, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Golf club blaze probe under way
The fire at the Chart Hills Golf Club
The fire was so severe that it quickly spread through the building
The cause of a fire which badly damaged a three-storey golf club building in Kent is being investigated.

More than 70 firefighters were called to the blaze at the Chart Hills Golf Club, in Biddenden, near Ashford.

They found the club house was well alight but the building had been evacuated and no-one was injured.

The course is the current home of the English Ladies' Open and is due to host one of the men's European Tour qualifying tournaments next week.

We could actually see the roof rafters alight - it was just an orange blaze
Denise Knights-Toomer

The club's general manager, David Walls, said that he hoped it would still go ahead.

"We are waiting to get confirmation from the risk assessor but we are keen to have the golf course reopened for the event," he said.

The fire broke out in the main building of the golf club and sports complex at 2000 BST on Wednesday.

Mr Walls said there were up to 80 people in the club house at the time, but everyone was able to leave safely and calmly.

Scene of the fire at the Chart Hills Golf Club
Firefighters were still at the scene a day after the fire broke out

Firefighters said the fire quickly spread to all three levels, and people living close to the scene in Weeks Lane spoke of seeing an orange sky and the entire building ablaze.

Denise Knights-Toomer, who lives opposite the club, said: "We could actually see the roof rafters alight - it was just an orange blaze."

Key areas of the golf club - including the professional's shop, locker rooms and lounge - were unaffected by the fire.

Firefighters remained at the scene overnight and used thermal imaging cameras to detect any remaining hotspots.

Steve Griffiths, senior divisional officer for Kent Fire and Rescue, said the fire was so severe that it quickly spread through the building.

"There has been a great deal of damage both through firefighting and also through the fire. We are working with the owners to try to salvage as much as possible," he said.

Mr Walls said golfers booked into the club on Thursday were being redirected to its sister club in East Sussex or other courses in the area.

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