Firefighters tackle flats blaze

FIREFIGHTERS from across Essex have tackled a major blaze at a housing development in Colchester which led to an evacuation of about 40 children from a day nursery.

FIREFIGHTERS from across Essex have tackled a major blaze at a housing development in Colchester which led to an evacuation of about 40 children from a day nursery.

The fire broke out at a top-floor flat at Maria Court at Hythe Quay just before 2.30pm yesterday and saw much of the three-storey building being evacuated.

No-one was in the burning flat at the time but brave locals ran from door-to-door knocking to warn residents they should get out.

As many as 40 young children were evacuated from the Kiddi Caru day nursery on the ground floor of the building and led to safety at the Spinnaker public house on the quay.

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Six fire crews using breathing apparatus searched the flat and ensured it was empty and two hose reels were used to bring the flames under control.

It is the second fire at the building, which has businesses on the ground floor and homes above, within the last year.

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Nicola Blackledge lives in a house boat on the River Colne opposite the flats and knocked on doors to raise the alarm.

She said: “The first we knew of it was when a woman came running into the pub. We ran from flat to flat telling people there was a fire.

“There was one person that we told to go out but he did not seem to bothered. He probably thought we were hoaxers.

“The kids from the nursery were a bit upset but none of them were hurt.”

John Howe, who also lives on a riverboat, said: “This is the second fire in a very little space of time - it must be a bit of a jinx.

“We just helped by taking some of the kids from the nursery and knocked on doors to get people out of their flats.”

The occupants of the flat were away at the time of the fire which spread through the rooms and the roofing leaving it severely damaged.

Peter Woods, manager at the Spinnaker pub, said: “We took about 30 of the kids in here, it is an arrangement that we have set up for if they have to leave their building suddenly. The parents have been coming to pick up the children.”

Residents were kept away from their homes during the incident as Hythe Quay was shut to the public from its junctions with Haven Road and Maudlyn Road.

The fire officer in charge, Lee Neale, said: “We carried out a search to make sure no one was there. The building has a mix of students and professionals in it.

“An investigation will be started shortly - we don't know what the cause is at this stage but it is not thought to be suspicious.

“We think it started in the roof space or the top floor of the flats.”

Last night, Nicky Jurkschat the spokeswoman for the nursery said: “The fire broke out above us but we are happy that everyone was evacuated really well.

“We would like to thank all the people who helped us during the incident.”

Fire crews from Colchester, Tiptree, Tollesbury, Wivenhoe, Manningtree and Chelmsford were sent and a stop was called on the incident at about 3.40pm.

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