Gallery: Onlookers tell of St Michael’s Church fire horror

IPSWICH: Dozens of onlookers watched in despair as flames tore through an historic church in Ipswich town centre.

More than 70 firefighters descended on Upper Orwell Street to tackle the blaze at St Michael’s Church which started just before 10pm.

Police officers cordoned off Upper Orwell Street to traffic and a Kebab shop opposite the church was forced to close early by police officers.

As news of the fire spread, scores of people began turning up in cars and parking in Tacket Street car park near the church to catch a glimpse of the fire.

Residents in flats further down Upper Orwell Street could be seen glued to their windows and watching on as the building burned.

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One onlooker at the scene, Charlotte Roberts, 33, from Ipswich, said: “This is one of the biggest fires that I have ever seen – there’s flames everywhere.

“You can hear the roof collapsing – every now and then you hear creaking and then a crash as debris falls to the ground.

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“I was walking through town and noticed thick smoke billowing across the skyline. It was quite a shock to see how big it was.

“The whole of Upper Orwell Street is closed and I don’t think I have ever seen so many police and firefighters in one location.”

Robert Telford, 48, from Ipswich, added: “The whole church is engulfed in flames and the building is going to be devastated.

“I would imagine the whole thing will have to be demolished. The fire fighters are doing a great job to stop it spreading but it’s just such a heavy blaze.

“It’s fortunate that the building was empty and isn’t near any homes. Had the flames spread then this could have been a very serious incident.”

Paul Betts, 24, from Ipswich, added: “My mate texted me to say there was a huge fire happening and I thought I would take a look.

“The smoke is literally roaring through the roof and high up into the sky. There are blue flashing lights everywhere and people just standing around watching.”

The church is near the Regent Theatre, which hosted an evening showing of Spamalot last night.

Audience members came out of the show shortly before 10pm to be greeted by the dramatic scene but their journey home was not hampered by the firefighting operation.

n What are your memories of St Michael’s Church? Were you married there? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters

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