From the Exeter Flying Post
30 May 1893
FIRE NEAR DAWLISH
THE FIRE BRIGADE REFUSE TO TURN OUT
A fire broke out at Ashcombe about 3 miles from Dawlish last night by which 5 cottages were burnt to the ground. The outbreak was first discovered about 9.0pm but its origin is unknown. The owner of the property is Sir R. Newman and was inhabited by Mrs. Bowden and Messrs Frogwell, Small and Ball, the remaining cottage being unoccupied. Most of the furniture was saved but one or two beds and other effects were lost and the occupiers will be great losers by the conflagration.
Immediately on discovery of the outbreak, which occurred in the middle cottage, the neighbours made every possible assistance in endeavouring to check the spread of the flames, and in so doing, a man named Frogwell fell off the roof and injured his arm and leg.
When they saw that their efforts were of no use, a man rode into Dawlish and gave the alarm, but for some reason or other, only one man of the Fire Brigade (named Hill) responded to the call. With great promptitude, Hill was at the Fire station and opened the doors, quite expecting that the other members of the brigade would turn up and go to the scene of the fire with the engine but they, it is stated, refused to stir.
A large crowd soon gathered at the Fire Station and great fun was made of the Fire Brigade's action - or want of action. Four of those who wished to give, if possible, some help, hired a cab and drove to Ashcombe and on arriving there about midnight saw that the cottages were doomed, as the roof had fallen in, and the fire had a complete hold on the ceilings, floors, windows, etc. and soon nothing but bare walls remained.
Had the engine been promptly taken there, it is possible that one or more of the cottages might have been saved as a large stream of water runs along about forty yards from the end of two of cottages. A great deal of time was thrown away in not calling the brigade before, it is true, the fire being discovered at 9.0pm and it being 10.50 before the messenger arrived at Dawlish, Still the brigade might have gone and done their best.
Great indignation was expressed by the cottagers and neighbours that no help from the Fire brigade arrived. PC John Hurved and PC Stone were on the scene soon after the outbreak.