Arson not ruled out in investigation into Cycle King fire in Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds
PUBLISHED: 07:36 01 October 2017 | UPDATED: 07:36 01 October 2017
Arson is one of the lines of enquiries into the cause of the devastating fire which tore through Cycle King in Bury St Edmunds town centre. An investigation into the blaze, put out by over 60 firefighters in two hours on Friday evening, remains ongoing.
Fire crews from across Suffolk were called to the Cycle King shop in Angel Hill shortly before 5pm yesterday, where a fire broke out in a storeroom behind the shop, which backs on to Abbey Gardens.
At the height of the blaze 12 fire crews comprising around 65 firefighters tackled the flames, with the priority for the fire service to stop the spread of flames to other buildings.
Suffolk Fire and Rescue area commander Ken Williamson said: “By around 7pm we had the fire contained, and the main thing was to extinguish the fire within Cycle King itself and stop it spreading to the adjacent buildings.
“We had to create a fire block, but there has some slight damage affecting the neighbouring buildings.
“Obviously we’re very saddened by the amount of damage in Cycle King but our main effort was to contain the fire, which we are pleased we managed to do.”
Once the flames were contained to Cycle King, fire crews continued working to put out the flames, which they did by around midnight.
Mr Williamson added: “There were not any dangerous substances but we had some minor explosion risks with the materials in Cycle King – canisters and tyres – there was quite a lot of rubber and canisters which all increased the potential for fire spread.
“Our fire investigators are working with the police to establish what the cause of fire was most likely to be.
“We are certainly concentrating our efforts to the rear of the building; into that store area. That is where we believe the fire originated from at this stage (Saturday morning).
“It can be a broad range of things which can start a fire, so we are very open minded at the moment. We are trying to discount many things which could have started it.
“Arson is a line of enquiry and something we are trying to establish is if there was any intent there at all.
“A lot of the bikes in there have suffered significant fire damage. There were lots of aerosols, cans and various pressurised containers in there as well, and the rubber tyres were involved in the fire.
“We are assessing the structure and we have concerns for the roof area and how that has been structurally affected by the fire, and also the front of the building. We are working with authorities and surveyors to decide the best action to take.”
Relief crews took over and remained at the scene until 4am to dampen down hotspots.
The Cycle King store has been left ruined while two neighbouring historic premises were both smoke damaged.
Last night, police confirmed two men – aged 22 and 23 – had been arrested on suspicion of arson.
Both had been taken to hospital for smoke inhalation treatment, before being taken to Bury St Edmunds police investigation centre for questioning.
A force spokeswoman this afternoon confirmed the pair still remain in custody, where they are being questioned.
Police had put in place a cordon in Angel Hill and closed the road while they were on the scene.
The road was initially expected to be closed for the rest of the weekend to traffic, although one lane is currently open on the cathedral side.
Structural engineers are at the site currently to assess the buildings, with the outcome of the inspection determining whether the road can full re-open.
It is understood that once scaffolding has been put up around the store this afternoon, both lanes will be open once again.
The fire service and police will be at the shop for most of the day for a full investigation into how the flames started, with Mr Williamson adding that it was too early at this stage to determine how it began.
Darren Hunt, group retail managing director of Cycle King, which has 23 stores across the country, said on a Facebook post from the firm: “Everyone here at Cycle King are both shocked and saddened to report that a fire broke out on Friday evening at our Bury St Edmunds store.
“Most importantly, we can confirm that no-one has been injured and we would like to thank the police and fire services for their amazing response.
“Customers can contact both our Cambridge and Colchester stores where our local staff will be based while we make plans to reopen in Bury as soon as possible.”
On one side of Cycle King is Francela, a Mediterranean and Greek restaurant which opened last December. It has suffered substantial damage to the kitchen area, including a large hole in the roof, and is expected to be closed for a few weeks.
Manager Salih Akman said: “We were getting ready for the evening service just before 5pm (on Friday) and we started seeing this smoke coming out of next door (Cycle King).
“We came outside and we saw Cycle King burning. They asked for some water, and we tried to help, then the fire engines arrived.
“They told us to leave the building as it could be dangerous, so we crossed the road, and just watched from there.
“It was a big fire. I wasn’t expecting it to be that big. It just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. We didn’t think our restaurant would be affected, but then it was affected.
“It was scary. In the first few minutes, people did try (to remove bikes from the shop), but then they left it.
“We have got a lot of damage inside, especially in the kitchen roof. It looks like we won’t be open for a few weeks, until all the repair work is carried out. We are not sure about all the damages and the repairs is quite sad. Angel Hill is a lovely area. There are a few restaurants here making good business. We hope to reopen soon.”
The 600-year-old One Bull pub, on the other side of the bike shop, was saved from ruin thanks to the quick efforts of firefighters, but yesterday tweeted to say it would be closed until further notice.
Further tweets this morning said: “Thanks so much to all of the amazing emergency services who saved our pub yesterday and the incredible support from the Bury community.
“Our home and the pub are damaged but everyone is safe and well. We will be back soon. Thank you for your concern and support, David & Rox.”
Andrea Marinho, owner of Cheers Restaurant, based three shops away from Cycle King and left unscathed by the blaze, said: “It is really sad. We hope it was an accident. If it’s arson, I don’t understand who could do such a thing.
“We had a couple of employees in our restaurant at the time. They could smell smoke, and then saw smoke at the rear of (Cycle King).
“After 30 minutes, they said it was burning down really bad at 6pm.
“Then the fire brigade said we had to close now for safety reasons and evacuate the shop. At about 7pm, the fire was really scary. It was horrible. There was a bad smell. At 9pm the fire was still on.
“It was just really sad, especially in this part of town where there is a lot of history. I just can’t believe it. But the firefighters have done a really good job.”
Residents Richard Horn and his wife Jan, who live near the town centre, said they hoped the community would help rally around those affected – particularly ahead of the Christmas trade period. They were told about the blaze by a neighbour on Saturday morning.
He added: “They have a race against time now to open for Christmas. I hope they are open in time. That is a great time of year for trade.
“It is just such a shame. It must have been open for 30 years. I bought my kids their bikes from here, and they are in their 40s now. But Bury is a friendly, caring town and I’m sure we will all rally round to help.
“It is an iconic shop and an historic area of the town. It’s so sad for everyone.”
Police are still appealing for anyone who may have information about how the fire started to contact them on 101, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.