A SEAFRONT restaurant has been forced to close for repairs after a fire sparked by a tumble dryer.

Richard Prewer, 42, who has owned the Las Vegas Grill on Marine Parade for ten years, expects his business to be closed for several days while damage is fixed.

The fire, which started shortly after 8pm on Sunday, was confined to an upstairs storeroom, which also contained treasured possessions belonging to Mr Prewer’s father-in-law, Brian Hilton.

Mr Prewer, of Wick Chase, Southend, said: “I was at home eating my Sunday roast. When I got the call, I got there as soon as I could.

“If it had been downstairs in the restaurant, it could have been so much worse. That is the good thing about having routines when we close like shutting the fire doors.”

Mr Hilton, 75, moved to Wick Chase last week and was in the process of shifting his belongings out of his son-in-law’s storage room.

Included in the damaged possessions were photo albums, family holiday videos and rare collectable model trains.

Mr Hilton said: “It’s very disheartening.

"The videos are history now. The trains aren’t irreplaceable, but it will not be easy as there are so many people wanting them.”

Harry Prigmore, operations manager for the Las Vegas, New York and Circus amusement arcades, spotted the blaze when closing up for the evening and called the fire brigade.

Mr Prigmore, 52, said firefighters were at the scene within minutes.

He said: “We all know each other along the front here, it’s a big community.

“Lots of people saw smoke, but it was hard to see where it was coming from because of the wind. The fire brigade were superb though, reacting so quickly. They were so kind and professional – they really are lifesavers.”

Southend station officer Lee Burling said: “It was a stroke of luck Mr Prigmore was there at the time, or it would’ve been much worse.

“Luckily, we got there quickly, so we were able to prevent it spreading.”

The tumble dryer which caused the fire was not switched on and contained wet tea towels, but firefighters have recently warned about letting lint build up in machines.

The fire service also said washing machines and dishwashers posed a risk to life, if not in full working order.

Essex fire crews attended five such fires in a week earlier in January, including two in one day in Southend.

Sub Officer Andre Turner said: “A build up of fluff and lint inside is a major fire risk.

“Only use these appliances when you are home and never leave them to run overnight.”