UPDATE: Eighty firefighters called to fire at Mile Cross flats

Around 80 fire fighters were called to a Norwich tower block after a 'severe' blaze broke out in its one of the highest stories.

The fire, which started in 10-storey Markham Tower in Bowers Avenue, Mile Cross, was reported following the activation of an alarm in the building at 11.20am today. No one was hurt in the incident.

Investigations are now under way into the cause of the fire in the tower, which began in a flat on the eighth floor and started to spread upwards, filling the levels above with smoke. The person living in the flat was not in at the time of the fire.

Stuart Horth, incident commander for the Norfolk Fire Rescue Service called the flat blaze 'severe'.

He described how firefighters based themselves on the sixth floor, before special units went up in groups to battle the blaze with hose reel jets. The fire was put out in ten minutes just as it was starting to spread to floor above, he added.

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Mr Horth was also quick to praise those living within the tower, claiming that their swift exit from the building before emergency services arrived had helped avert a more serious situation.

'It could have been an awful lot worse but our crews did a good job and put out the fire, and all the residents made their own way out of the building which was good for us.

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'We want people to have an escape plan for fires so if something like this happens they will know what to do, and that's particularly important for those with children.'

As well as 12 fire engines, half a dozen support pumps, including the aerial ladder platform, went to Bowers Avenue, which was partly closed to traffic along with Bignold Road. Flats around the scene of the fire were also damaged.

Among those in the tower block at the time was David Freeman, 45, who was with his girlfriend at her first floor home and believed that the flat in question was owned by a woman in her 40s..

Mr Freeman, of Saffron Square, Catton, said: 'We heard shouting telling us to get out and when we did we saw smoke and within five minutes the window had blown out.

'We could see a few flames out the bottom of the window at first but within a few minutes they were huge and the whole flat was obviously engulfed.

'It was terrifying and we were all worried in case anyone was in there. It was panic, really.'

Samantha Kerslake was also outside the smoke-stained building. She was heading back to the towers with her cousin when they saw the emergency services lined up along the roadside.

Miss Kerslake explained that people had assisted the fire service in helping them move obstructions on the Lefroy Road to reach the building.

'They put these wheels on the bottom of cars parked in the way and people helped push them down the road so the fire engines could get through. 'When we saw the fire it seemed out of control, with bits of debris coming out of the window. It's a miracle no-one was hurt.'

Markham Tower is a Norwich City Council owned building.

•Has a major incident happened where you are? Contact reporter John Owens on 01603 772439 or john.owens@archant.co.uk

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