July 26 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Fire crews have now left the scene of today’s earlier blaze at the empty Pinebanks sports and social club in Thorpe St Andrew, near Norwich, and will return in the morning.
The blaze in the early hours destroyed most of the original part of the Victorian villa and at its height 66 firefighters battled to keep it from spreading to other parts of the building.
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service sent crews from across Norfolk to the fire in Yarmouth Road.
The alarm was first raised at 1.26am and at the height of the fire the flames could be seen from as far away as Whitlingham.
It took until about 4.30am to get the fire under control with about 66 firefighters working to extinguish the blaze.
To add to the drama, firefighters took part in industrial action this morning between 6am and 8am. But a fire spokesman said it had “little impact”.
“Firefighters did leave to take part in industrial action but this coincided with the time that relief crews would have been called anyway,” she said. “The fact that the fire broke out in the early hours also meant that there was plenty of time to plan for this.”
Currently firefighters are still on the scene and are waiting for the area to be made safe before they can go in and check that there are no further hotspots. Fire investigation work will then begin.
A fire spokesman added that when they arrived at the scene the fire was “very well developed”. The flames were already coming through the roof and fire crews tried to concentrate on preventing the fire from spreading.
Incident commander Greg Preston said: “When we arrived we found a well-developed fire in the old part of the building, with flames going through the roof and spreading quickly because of the timber construction.
“Our initial actions were to prevent the fire spreading to the other parts of the building and to make sure there was nobody in the building, because it’s not unusual to get rough sleepers in empty buildings.”
Five fire crews were called to the scene as well as the service’s aerial platform, a water carrier and control unit.
Mr Preston said: “We had 66 firefighters and officers on scene at the height of the blaze. Some police officers saw the flames from Whitlingham.”
He added: “The old part of the building is almost completely destroyed by the fire. There’s some minor damage to the newer parts but we managed to stop the spread and have saved approximately 70pc of the building.
“It’s too early for our investigators to go in but when we get to a point where the building is safe to do so we will investigate further.”
Relief crews are still on the scene, damping down, and are expected to be there all day and possibly overnight too.
Demolition workers were also on site to advise firefighters, as the remaining unsupported chimneys and tower have become extremely dangerous.
The original Pinebanks house was built around 1880 and extended in 1907.
It became the Norwich Union (now Aviva) Sports and Social Club, but closed in 2008.
More than 230 homes are to be built on the site after a planning application was approved last year.
Nearby residents had opposed the plans, but Broadland District Council’s planning committee voted unanimously in favour of 231 homes at Pinebanks and 71 homes at the nearby Griffin Lane site, which are both owned by the same property developer, Ocubis.
In November residents spoke of their fears after hordes of people trying to enter an illegal rave at Pinebanks threatened to overwhelm police before hurling bottles and vandalising police cars.