A fire that broke out at the Club Hotel in Shannon early this morning has been labelled suspicious.
Fire investigators were assessing the scene with the help of police today to determine the cause of the fire, which started around the back of the building in the kitchen area some time shortly after midnight.
Area commander Mitchell Brown said although the fire caused damage to the building near the back porch and inside around the kitchen area, the damage could have been worse.
From the front of the building on Plimmer Terrace, there was no sign of fire damage at all.
Commander Brown credits the quick response time, where the Shannon Fire crew were on the scene within 14 minutes, as a key factor in minimising any damage.
The fire alarm was raised at 1am this morning and the Shannon crew were at the scene at 1.14pm. Shannon volunteer fire brigade was joined shortly after by crews from Levin, Tokomaru and Foxton.
St John staff and police were also at the scene, with traffic diverted away from the area.
Three permanent residents of the hotel, and their pets, were all safely evacuated from their lodgings upstairs.
Commander Brown said a working fire alarm within the building warned the occupants and allowed them time to make a safe exit.
Fire crews were able to subdue the fire, but were still at the scene hours later as the old tongue and groove timber walls that had been covered in corrugated iron kept smouldering.
The fire was able to keep burning and spread behind the iron inside the wall before eventually being subdued.
The animals that were saved in the blaze were pet rats, rescued from the lingering smoke after the fire had been put out.
Commander Brown said fires increase in size very quickly. A building could be well ablaze within minutes.
Meanwhile, it added another chapter to what was a long history of pub fires in Horowhenua.
In recent times, Shannon's only other pub, the Albion was destroyed by fire in 2011. Further up the road the iconic Grand Hotel was destroyed by fire in Levin in 1981.