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Firefighters tackle office blaze

PUBLISHED: 05:53 18 January 2003 | UPDATED: 16:12 24 February 2010

A BLAZE in a solicitors' office saw six fire crews called to Ipswich town centre last night .

The fire broke out in the second floor premises of criminal law firm Saunders Goodin Riddleston in Friars Street, shortly after 6pm.

A BLAZE in a solicitors' office saw six fire crews called to Ipswich town centre last night .

The fire broke out in the second floor premises of criminal law firm Saunders Goodin Riddleston in Friars Street, shortly after 6pm.

Flames spread into the roof as thick smoke billowed from windows of the building.

Anxious solicitors watched from the street below fearing vital documents would be destroyed.

All 12 staff had left by 5.30pm and the cleaners were not due to arrive until after 7pm but firemen used thermal imaging cameras to make sure no one was trapped.

Assistant Divisional Officer Karl Rolfe from Princes Street fire station in Ipswich, said: "We had no reason to believe anyone was in there but we always search just to make sure. It was a quite awkward to get to all the aspects as the fire was travelling through voids in the roof.

"We had to try to get ahead of it and put breaks in to stop it spreading," he added.

Crews used a turntable ladder to spray jets directly into the building while others knocked tiles off the roof to get at the flames.

Some roof timbers were completely burned through with heat, smoke and water damage caused to a second floor office. The rest of the floor suffered smoke damage.

There was also water damage to the first floor offices, and JSM Estate Agents, on the ground floor was almost unscathed.

The blaze was believed to have started in an electrical storage heater but a full fire investigation was due to take place this morning .

ADO Rolfe said: "We believe the cause to be accidental."

Charles Riddleston, a partner at Saunders Goodin Riddleston, which he established in 1994, was alerted to the incident by a friend.

He said: "I understand there is some damage to computers and files. We will have to come back and take stock in daylight. All our files should be backed up on computers but if they are damaged, we could be left with a lot of gaps.

"I wouldn't say it is a major disaster for the firm. We are insured. I am just thankful there was no one in the building."

Mrs Ida Cates, who was due to start cleaning the offices at 7.30pm, said: "We'd just come up here to clean and we saw the fire engines. We could have been in the middle of it."

Richard Hawkins, managing agent for the building, said: "We think it was started by a night storage heater and spread up into the roof. Some of the timbers were completely burned through."

Philip Dance, whose wife Gillian owns the Rumbles sandwich shop next door to JSM, said: "Hopefully the fire shouldn't have affected us, although I think all the upstairs rooms are interlinked."

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