'The town has been wonderful' businessman humbled by community spirit after devastating fire
PUBLISHED: 15:49 07 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:55 08 February 2020
A business owner who lost his life's work in a building fire says he has been overwhelmed with community spirit.
Dennis Brooks, 68, of Ashill, lost the building he has owned in Watton High Street since 1992 when a fire took hold at 2.30pm on Thursday, February 6.
It is believed the blaze began in the kitchen of the Beijing Diner, a Chinese restaurant in the top floor of the building, then spread through to Cookies Cafe, Casino Games and the International Food Centre.
Nine fire crews and more than 20 firefighters fought the blaze at the restaurant for several hours and stayed at the scene until the morning as the building is deemed unsafe.
READ MORE: Drone photos reveal scale of major high street blaze
Watton High Street remain closed to traffic throughout Friday while workers erected scaffolding and inspected the damage.
Mr Brooks was able to see the scale of the damage for the first time. He hopes the building can be rebuilt.
He said: "I'm not feeling too bad but the damage is pretty extensive. I don't think it's going to be a job of demolishing the whole building, it can be rebuilt but it's going to be a horrendous job.
"The support from the businesses in the High Street makes me choke up a bit.
"Atlantis Fish bar served fish and chips to the firefighters along with Little Gary's Plaice and Paul Adcock [of Adcocks Electronics] have been very helpful.
"It isn't just them, the town has been wonderful."
READ MORE: Owner says 'life's work' has been destroyed in high street blaze
The cost of the damage is not known at this stage but Mr Brooks had insurance.
He added: "I'm waiting for the insurance company to come and inspect the building.
"I've had to bring the workers in to make it safe so the street can get back open but I'm hoping the insurance will cover that."
Other businesses have reopened following the complete closure of the road.
Myhills Pet and Garden is directly across the street from Beijing Diner.
Manager David Squires, 64, has worked with the company for 48 years. He has noticed a change in atmosphere in the town.
"When it happened I was getting some change and I saw the smoke. I saw girls shouting to stop the traffic and shouting to the flats," he said.
READ MORE: Witnesses tell of blaze at Chinese restaurant in town high street
"There were people coming in but the police wanted us to lock the doors as they didn't want people going onto the High Street.
"A lot of people have come to look at the building and have come into the shop. We have had a lot of people talking about, with many being upset and I imagine Dennis [Brooks] is gutted."