Technology failure blamed for fire crew delay during Magpie blaze

The scene when the Magpie caught fire back in May. Picture by Ceri Oakes.
The scene when the Magpie caught fire back in May. Picture by Ceri Oakes.

A technology failure is being blamed for a seven minute delay in dispatching fire crews to a major blaze at the Magpie Cafe, a BBC investigation has learned.

According to an internal document, computer software failed in the control room which meant that no crew was mobilised after an emergency call to say the building was on fire.

And it took a further seven minutes before the fault was spotted.

The fire was the second blaze inside 24 hours at the world-famous fish and chip restaurant, which has won praise from the likes of A.A Gill and James Martin.

Crowds watched in shock back in May as the building's roof was ravaged by the blaze, which left the owners with an estimated £1 million bill to rebuild the restaurant.

And the Magpie didn't return until December, following a major rebuilding job.

A spokesman for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service blamed "a combination of issues" but "a particular issue with the system meant the operators who were under tremendous pressure did a fantastic job but were unable to mobilise those appliances earlier."

They added that it was difficult to tell how much the delay impacted on the extent of the damage.

Co-owner of the restaurant, Alison McKenzie Slater told the Gazette at their reopening night: "It has been eight months of sheer hell, the devastation of the fire and just seeing the building destroyed.

"It has just been such an upsetting time and I’m so pleased that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"I have very many happy memories of being down here with my grandparents and my father and mother, and the building is very special to me and means a lot. The fire was like having a bereavement in the family."

The Magpie has been in Alison’s family since the early 1950s when her grandparents, Clifford and Gladys Barker, took over the running of the restaurant.

After they retired in 1964, her parents, Ian and Sheila McKenzie, ran the business until 1990 when she took it over in partnership with Ian Robson.