Photo gallery and video: Updated: Crowds gather to see destruction caused by major blaze in Fakenham’s Market Place
PUBLISHED: 12:26 26 May 2014 | UPDATED: 15:29 26 May 2014
Hundreds of people have gathered in Fakenham’s Market Place in shock and disbelief to see the burned out shell of what used to be one of the town’s most recognisable buildings.
Firefighters are still at the scene of the blaze which ripped through the Original Factory Shop plus seven homes and two other commercial properties yesterday morning.
A cordon remains in place around the site which has destroyed the former Aldiss store which has stood in the heart of Fakenham for more than 100 years.
Chief fire officer Nigel Williams confirmed today that the buildings affected in Upper Market Place would have to be demolished and that crews could be on the scene for the rest of this week.
Louise Watts, who lives at Red Lion Court, just near where the fire broke out at 10.30am yesterday, said she “had never seen anything like it”. Together with her partner Mark John, she was evacuated from her home and was put up in a bed and breakfast in Fakenham last night.
The 43-year-old said: “I went outside to hang my washing out and I turned around and saw a cloud of black smoke. I said someone’s either has got a fire or something’s on fire.
“I came out to have a look and as I got there, the windows were being blown out and car caught on fire.
“There were flames at the back of ours. It was scary. How quickly it took hold was the scariest part. On the plus side at least no one was hurt.”
As reported, horrified onlookers stood in disbelief yesterday morning as scores of firefighters fought to contain the fire.
The rising plume of dark, acrid smoke could be seen on the horizon from up to 10 miles away, while police cordons led to five-mile traffic tailbacks in all directions.
Duty brigade commander David Ashworth said the fire had affected a 70m by 70m area covering three and four floors.
The roofs collapsed, leaving smouldering rubble inside the buildings - making it too dangerous for the firefighters to enter.
He said a secure water supply was tapped into from the nearby River Wensum.
Fourteen crews created a fire break to stop the flames racing through the roof space of the building - and to halt its spread to the nearby Fakenham Parish Church, which was heavily affected by smoke.
Two people were dramatically rescued by the fire brigade from the flats above the properties but no one was taken to hospital.
Meanwhile, a service at the church was abandoned, with parishioners rallying to rescue valuables that were inside the 14th century building. The church was not affected as badly as first feared it would be and is back open today.
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