Dereham fire update: Arson ruled out after major town centre blaze
Police today said they were not treating a major blaze which destroyed a Dereham charity shop as a crime.
At the height of the fire last night, 11 crews from across Norfolk were involved in fighting the flames and smoke in the Pact animal charity shop in Norwich Street.
The fire crews 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.
There is only a pre-fabricated wall between the Pact shop and the chip shop.
There is huge praise in Dereham this morning for the work done by the fire crews.
The Pact shop is due to be redeveloped, along with the neighbouring former Lloyds TSB bank and Mariners as part of a £1m project by local businesman Basil Todd.
Mariners is shut today and staff fear it may not re-open due to the impact of the fire.
The aerial ladder platform was used to tackle the fire from above the Pact shop roof.
The blaze was under control by midnight but crews remained at the scene well in to the early hours as smoke continued to come out of the building.
An inquiry is underway into the cause of the fire.
Specialist officers and crime scene investigators have unable to get into the building as it is unsafe,
But they have been making inquiries locally and taking pictures in the building.
The fire service is continuing its investigations.
A police spokesman said it was not being treated as a crime and they were no longer involved in the investigation.
People faced disruption in Dereham town centre on the busy market day.
Norwich Street was closed for several hours and re-opened at about midday.
Police put a corden around the burnt out building, which has now been boarded up.
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.
Pact shop manager Soraya Parnell said today: “I am devastated by this. The animals at the sanctuary will really miss the money we should have been raising. My friend Sara lives in the flat opposite and called me last night to say she had heard a bang and looked out to see our roof at the back on fire,
“She had already called the fire brigade. I live in Necton so got over as soon as I could after ringing George and Chris Rockingham. The firemen had been trying to get around the back to the chip shop where it seemed the fire had started which is what they said last night.
“All stock is uninsured and we have lost all fitting and the money we would be raising today and so on for the animals will be severely missed.
“I helped the fire brigade with questions about any hazards, it seems to have started behind us in the chip shop but they are investigating so will get the cause of it no doubt. We are going to be moving into the old Birds sports shop early in the new year but will be a few months without a shop in Dereham. I’m disappointed for all the people who have donated lovely items for us to sell for the animal care only to see it go up in smoke.”
Incident commander station manager Barry Key said crews had been confronted by a “fierce fire which was well ablaze.”
Onlookers gathered at the scene.
Cowper Road was 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.”
There were two crews from Dereham in the firefighting operation along with one from Watton, three from Earlham - including the aerial ladder platform - one from Reepham, two from Fakenham, one from Attleborough, one from Thetford plus two control units from Wymondham.
Did you see the fire? Have you got any pictures from last night? Please contact Ian Clarke on 01362 854701. Email firstname.lastname@example.org