Fire at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall River Cottage kitchens

The cookery school kitchens at TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage headquarters in Devon have been severely damaged by fire.

The alarm was raised at about 22:15 GMT on Tuesday and the fire took several hours to control.

Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said firefighters had also had to isolate tanks of liquid propane gas at the Axminster property.

River Cottage said staff were trying to contact the chef who is filming abroad.

'Pretty devastating'

Fire Investigation Officer Mike Burroughs, of Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, said there were some "big safety issues for crews to deal with to deal with".

He said: "I think there were 10 ovens in there, and each oven had its own gas cylinder.

"Each gas cylinder had the potential to explode quite spectacularly, sending debris and burning material over a wide area."

Image caption River Cottage held cookery school courses in the converted barn

River Cottage's managing director, Rob Love, described the scene as "pretty devastating".

He added that Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall had still to be informed of what had happened but he had been sent an email.

Mr Love said: "He's on a boat, but we're not exactly sure where he is so it might take some time to get through."

River Cottage said its cookery school courses which are held in the converted barn would not be running "in the short term".

It added it was hoping to put up a temporary building and have courses running again as soon as possible.

The Canteen restaurant and delicatessen, based in the centre of Axminster, has not been affected by the fire.

Last August, the chef and his son had to be rescued by lifeboat when his boat became trapped on submerged rocks off the coast of Sidmouth.

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