A PUB landlord has been praised after taking in residents forced to leave their homes during a blaze in the early hours of Saturday.

A large fire broke out in the yard of Oxford MOT and Service Centre just off Cowley Road shortly after 3.30am on Saturday.

Due to the intensity of the blaze, it spread to a nearby office building and those living close by were evacuated from their homes by police officers.

At its peak, 45 firefighters using eight fire engines, tackled the fire.

Landlord of The Marsh Harrier pub, Merlin Lyons, said he and his girlfriend Samantha Willis saw the commotion from their window.

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Mr Lyons, 37, said: “Sam got up and saw all these flames. They were so high. Then our buzzer went and the police asked if would we be able to let a few of the evacuated people in out of the cold. So we opened up and gave everyone tea and coffee.”

Fifteen people, still only dressed for bed in pyjamas and dressing gowns, took sanctuary in the pub. Mr Lyons said there were even four cats, as worried residents had brought along their pets.

Oxford Mail:

Nearby buildings were damaged

Bethany Wallis, 26, was evacuated from her home with her two cats Mitten and Sooty.

She said: “We were a bit confused and hadn’t really woken up.

“We were evacuated to the path opposite the house and then the pub opened and we were given cups of tea.”

Rebecca, who lives in Cowley Road, was also evacuated to the pub and praised the landlord for opening at such an anti-social hour. She said: “We were woken up by police knocking on our doors. We didn’t know what the hell was going on.

“Then we looked outside and saw flames and this great plume of smoke.

“The landlord opened up the Marsh Harrier which was fantastic.”

Oxford Mail:

Merlin Lyons, landlord of The Marsh Harrier pub

Incident Commander Mark Ames said it was too early to tell what had caused the fire and an investigation with the police would take place.

Station manager Simon Belcher said: “Due to the prompt actions of the first crews on the scene the fire was stopped and the damage limited to a small area, it could quite easily have spread without the quick intervention of the fire crews.”

Group manager Mike Adcock said: “Thanks to quick thinking members of the public calling this in on 999 we were able to prevent this from being much worse than it could have been.”

The MOT centre, formerly Tyreryte Service Centre, had been closed for about six months, residents say.

It was apparently due to be re-opened today by new owners.