Clear-up can begin after Sudbury fire is finally extinguished

Emergency services at the scene of a fire in Sudbury town centre.

Emergency services at the scene of a fire in Sudbury town centre. - Credit: Archant

The Sudbury fire was finally fully extinguished yesterday, around 48 hours after smoke was first seen in a nail salon window.

Emergency services at the scene of a fire in Sudbury town centre.

Emergency services at the scene of a fire in Sudbury town centre. - Credit: Archant

Investigations into the cause of the Friars Street/Market Hill blaze are yet to take place, with unstable historic buildings preventing access to the scene.

At around 2pm yesterday Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service officially declared the emergency response stage of the operation over. They were first called just after 6pm on Sunday, with the fire bringing down one building and leaving two others at risk of collapse. All are grade II listed.

Station Commander Pat Dacey said: “We have made quite a lot of progress and as a result we are declaring the initial operational phase over.

“As far as we are concerned the fire is extinguished, but we will maintain a presence on the scene in the event of any hotspots flaring up.

Emergency services at the scene of a fire in Sudbury town centre.

Emergency services at the scene of a fire in Sudbury town centre. - Credit: Archant

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“Our role will now be in supporting building control and the investigation, but we are now taking a back seat.”

The path along Friars Street on the opposite side to the fire was due to open yesterday, but Babergh District Council’s building control discovered the front wall of the former Anchor pub building was more unstable than first thought. The road is unlikely to open until at least the end of this week.

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Gary Starling, building control corporate manager, said yesterday: “The good news is that people in the Gainsborough Street premises, both commercial and residential, will be able to gain access this afternoon.”

Three businesses and several flats on Gainsborough Street, which backed on to the fire damaged HSBC bank and completely collapsed Goldsmith’s Mansion, were waiting for the rear wall of the bank to be made secure.

Mr Starling said: “We have managed to secure the wall to the rear of those properties. The damage that has been done above The Cobblers and Keys (in the old Anchor) is more serious than we thought.”

A specialist crane is set to be brought in today to help remove a lower section of the chimney and part of the roof above the fire damaged cobblers.

All of the accessible properties on Friars Street and Gainsborough Street have now had their power restored, after it was cut as a precaution on Sunday.

A spokeswoman from UK Power Networks said: “Engineers reconnected electricity supplies to 40 properties in Sudbury town centre at 2.45am yesterday after fire crews had made the area safe following Sunday evening’s fire.

“The only properties which do not have an electricity supply are the ones which were sadly destroyed or very badly damaged by the fire.”

A police presence is due to remain on the scene at all times, in a bid to keep properties secure. Initial findings suggest that the fire was not deliberate, but police and the fire investigators are yet to gain sufficient access to the scene.

Babergh council has managed to find temporary accommodation for seven households displaced by the fire, all within Sudbury.

Around 20 people have been affected.

Duncan Merren, Babergh press officer, said: “Businesses throughout Sudbury remain open despite the fire and while nine businesses have been unable to return to trade from their premises due to the fire, the council is working closely with them to help find alternative accommodation shortly.”

They are appealing for private landlords in Sudbury to contact their homelessness team on 01473 825757, who may be able to put them in contact with residents looking for alternative properties. Around four flats have been completely destroyed in the fire.

A fundraising appeal launched online has already raised nearly £1,900 for those made homeless by the fire, while the council is urging those who wish to make donations of food or clothing to take them to the Sudbury Town Hall.

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‘Ifeel lucky to be alive’

A man who says he is “lucky to be alive” after the Sudbury town centre fire has told how he woke to a room full of smoke on Sunday evening.

Living in a flat above the Cobblers and Keys shop on Friars Street, Gavin Eidsgard says counting the cost of the damage comes second to the relief that he actually survived.

“I was asleep at the time,” he said. “I woke up and there was just smoke everywhere, you could barely see, and I just kept on running until I was safe. I didn’t care about grabbing anything, possessions. I was just thinking escape, escape.”

Mr Eidsgard’s flat was previously attached to the Goldsmith’s Mansion building, but now his side wall can be seen exposed above the wreckage of the collapsed building.

He said: “It has not burnt down. The lounge, you can’t get in there and the rest is just devastated by smoke and water damage. I will never be living in there again.”

Mr Eidsgard says he did not manage to get out of his flat until after the neighbouring building was already well alight.

The fire went rapidly from small amounts of smoke in Celebrities Nails to a blazing inferno, with Mr Eidsgard getting out after the nail salon’s shop front exploded.

“That is how late I found out,” he said. “They had already rescued the women from the flat when I got out. Minutes later and I could have been dead. I am lucky to be alive.

“People keep asking if there was an alarm, but it was all a blur. I don’t know how I got out, how I even unlocked the door, it was all sub-conscious.”

The lessons that can be learned from the blaze

Lessons learned from the Sudbury town centre fire could help save hundreds of Suffolk’s historic building from the same fate and save lives.

In the wake of the devastating blaze, which raised one historic building on Friars Street to the ground and severely damaged two others, the fire service hopes people will learn the importance of fire safety and prevention.

Suffolk Fire Service Station Commander Paul Dennison said: “We have seen here how devastatingly quick a fire can rip through historic buildings like these.

“We are looking to hold seminars with landlords and businesses who operate in historic properties and make them aware of the prevention measure they can take.

“Often, working within historic buildings it can be hard to make modern fire safety standards fit, but there are several measures that can be taken.

“Things like ensuring people know where exits are and that they are kept clear can help save lives, especially where you have residential and commercial properties in the same building.”

Gavin Eidsgard, who was in his flat above the Cobblers and Keys on Friars Street when the fire struck, said that Suffolk could look to Norway to help keep its historic buildings standing.

“We need to look at having fire alarms in these commercial properties that connect straight to the fire station,” he said.

“Something as simple as sprinkler systems can stop a fire. We need to do something and learn our lessons fast unless we want to lose even more important buildings.”

He said that in Norway wooden buildings are required by law to have fire alarm systems that alert the fire station.

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