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Artist loses his work in Mill Road blaze that started with a toaster

By Mike Scialom

Fire crews at the site of the fire in Mill Road on Monday (May 13). Picture: Keith Heppell
Fire crews at the site of the fire in Mill Road on Monday (May 13). Picture: Keith Heppell

A well-known Mill Road character and artist whose 20-year studio went up in smoke has had a crowdfunding page opened in his name to help buy new materials.

A fire in Rufus Fox’s flat caused Mill Road to be cordoned off while buildings were evacuated amid fears of an explosion on Monday (May 13).

Rufus painted the swan in the interior of the White Swan pub, and a former schoolfriend of Pink Floyd muse Syd Barrett who accompanied the musician to house parties where he played guitar and sang. He was also a barman at the Boat Race in the days when Oasis and the Libertines were regular visitors.

The fire apparently started when 78-year old resident Rufus’s toaster caught fire.

A friend who was on the scene shortly after the fire ended described him as “shaken and very angry that his 20-year studio had gone up in smoke, taking all his artwork, music and books”.

Rufus Fox with friend
Rufus Fox with friend

“Rufus said he was using the toaster, it caught fire and set some plastic nearby on fire,” said the eyewitness of the cause of the blaze by Mill Road bridge.

“Then he realised it was out of control so he left the building but he had no shoes or jacket. He wanted to go back and get them, then some builders from a nearby construction site appeared, picked him up from the top of the stairs and took him to safety.

“The whole flat is gutted. It’ll be amazing if anything is salvaged.”

The flat by Mill Road bridge is said to be 'gutted'. Picture: Keith Heppell
The flat by Mill Road bridge is said to be 'gutted'. Picture: Keith Heppell

The owners of the flats, CHS Group, said: “A fire broke out at one of CHS Group’s properties in Mill Road today. The fire started in one of the upper floor flats and was attended by emergency services.

“There was also water damage to the flat below. All the residents were evacuated and are all uninjured.”

Stephen Hills, CHS’s operations director, said: “We are very relieved that no one was hurt and thank the fire service for their swift reactions. We are arranging for the two affected tenants to be temporarily rehoused whilst investigation is under way and we make repairs.”

It is understood that Mr Fox has been given temporary accommodation at Ellis House in Arbury. He was unavailable for comment.


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