2am update: Fire crews still at scene of major blaze in Dereham town centre
Firefighters are early today still at the scene of a fierce blaze in part of Dereham town centre which is due to be redeveloped in a £1m project.
At the height of the fire, 11 crews from across Norfolk were involved in fighting the flames and smoke in the Pact animal charity shop in Norwich Street.
They were called at about 10pm and it was initially thought the blaze had spread to the Mariners fish and chip shop on the Cowper Road car park but the firefighters managed to contain the flames.
The aerial ladder platform was used to tackle the fire from above the shop roof.
The fire was under control by midnight but crews remained at the scene as smoke continued to come out of the building.
An investigation is underway into the cause of the fire.
Chris Rockingham, co-founder of Pact, believes uninsured, second-hand stock worth up to £10,000 has been destroyed by the fire.
She said: “I am devastated. It’s completely ruined.” Pact, or the People for Animal Care Trust, was established in March 1995. It aims to relieve the suffering of animals of any species who are in need of care and attention.
Pact’s animal sanctuary is one of the largest in the east of England.
Firefighters also had to check the neighbouring former Lloyds TSB bank, which is also due to be redeveloped as part of a scheme by local businesman Basil Todd.
Incident commander station manager Barry Key said crews had been confronted by a “fierce fire which was well ablaze.”
Onlookers gathered at the scene.
Norwich Street and Cowper Road were shut for several hours.
Michael Moore, of Gressenhall, was in the nearby Bombay Tandoori Restaurant, in Norwich Street, with his wife when news of the fire emerged. He said: “We were having a meal and someone came in the restaurant and said we should move our car as there was a big fire outside. We were actually parked right outside the Pact shop at the time.” Two fire engines from Dereham, one from Watton and one from Reepham attended. They were joined by a water carrier from Fakenham, an aerial platform from Earlham in Norwich and a further unit from Wymondham.