Downham Market fire station could be replaced with combined emergency HQ

The Downham Market fire station blaze. Picture by Kathy Mellish.

The Downham Market fire station blaze. Picture by Kathy Mellish. - Credit: Archant

Downham Market fire station could be replaced with a purpose-built headquarters for all three of the town's emergency services.

The aftermath of the fire. Picture: Ian Burt

The aftermath of the fire. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Flames tore through the retained station, on Ryston Close, in the early hours of March 11. Officers in the police station next door raised the alarm after they smelled smoke.

While the cause of the blaze is still being investigated, it appeared to have started in the engine bay, where a £250,000 appliance destroyed in the fire was stored.

Norfolk Fire Service said the building, which would cost £1.5m to replace, was insured. But officials now hope to obtain a government grant to build a new HQ for the town's fire, police and ambulance services instead.

A spokesman said: 'The fire crew is currently based at the police station and we are looking at the possibility of this continuing in the longer term.

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'We are planning to make a bid to the DCLG [Department for Communities and Local Government] for a grant under their transformation fund to build a bigger station, to potentially house fire, police and ambulance vehicles.

'That grant is aimed at supporting greater collaboration between blue light services.

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'The old station only had capacity for one engine and this would give us and our partners greater flexibility in the longer term.'

Downham's retained crew discovered their own station was alight when they answered an early hours shout.

Crews from across West Norfolk and the Fens were quickly on the scene, but the fire had already taken hold of the single storey building.

At the height of the blaze, flames leapt 20m into the night sky. Oxygen cylinders stored on board the fire appliance for use in breathing apparatus exploded with such force that they landed in a neighbouring street.

Even before crews began picking through the charred rubble of the station, it was obvious that the building was a write-off.

But a board recording the names of previous generations of retained crews who had proudly served Downham somehow managed to survive the inferno.

After the fire, it emerged that the station had not been fitted with sprinklers. A replacement appliance and equipment was delivered to the town within hours of the fire. It is now based at the police station.

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