'There was a loud bang': holidaymakers tell of racecourse fire drama
PUBLISHED: 13:44 29 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:02 29 August 2019
Staff have been left devastated after a blaze tore through a workshop at Fakenham Racecourse and forced holidaymakers to be evacuated.
The alarm was raised just after 4am on Thursday, when guests staying at the course's caravan site discovered a fire had broken out in a nearby workshop.
Fire crews began arriving minutes later and brought the flames under control by around 7am. An investigation to establish the cause of the blaze is under way.
Peter and Christine Starling, holidaymakers at the caravan site, were among those to raise the alarm after waking in the early hours.
"All of sudden there was a loud bang, so I shot out of bed and could see flames from the roof," said Mr Starling. "Someone rang the fire bell and I went round waking everyone up."
Mrs Starling added: "We kept thinking we were going to lose everything, but the firefighters did a brilliant job so we're feeling very fortunate."
Despite such a damaging setback, David Hunter - chief executive and clerk of the course - said the consequences could have been "a lot worse" and vowed to "look at the bigger picture".
He said: "The blaze was completely contained to the groundsman's workshop. But that means we've lost machinery, maintenance equipment and the building is completely and utterly destroyed.
"The fire brigade were superb and understood my wish to prevent the fire from reaching the stables. There are no horses in there, but it could've had massive implications ahead of our first race in October.
"A lot has been damaged, but it's all replaceable. My head groundsman and colleagues are devastated by what they've seen, but it could have been considerably worse. Thank goodness nobody has been injured and we'll be up and running in no time."
Having dealt with a fierce blaze that threatened to spiral out of control, crew manager Jamie Francis said the need for a second engine was evident.
"Things would have completely different here if we didn't have that second pump," he said.