Investigation into garage fire continues

FIRE investigation teams were sifting through the rubble of a Suffolk car centre yesterday as they tried to establish what started a devastating blaze there.

FIRE investigation teams were sifting through the rubble of a Suffolk car centre yesterday as they tried to establish what started a devastating blaze there.

As a massive clear up at the Rodbridge Car Centre in Long Melford got under way, fire chiefs, who threw a 200-metre exclusion zone around the scene at the height of the blaze and evacuated 15 homes, were still to establish the cause.

And a road close to the scene remained closed after experts ruled a 7ft high wall next to the highway had been severely weakened by water used in the firefighting operation.

Residents told how Thursday night's drama unfolded after they saw sparks and heard loud bangs coming from the garage, which is situated only metres from their homes.

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The fire, which started at 5.15pm, involved gas canisters and concerned fire officers decided residents living nearby had to be evacuated from their homes because of the high risk of explosion.

Sue Steer, who lives opposite the centre's valet workshop - which was engulfed by flames and completely wrecked by the fire - said she feared for her safety when she heard the loud bangs.

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“It was dark outside and we just saw all this smoke,” she recalled.

“It was all coming out of the roof, then the wind got gusty and the flames came. When the electric went there were huge sparks and bangs - it was quite terrifying watching it.

“We thought it was going to spread - there was so much smoke and it stunk because the fire spread to the tyres.”

She said firefighters desperate for water used a nearby private swimming pool to bolster their bid to quell the flames.

“The fire seemed to slow down but then it would fire up again. The firefighters had a huge hose going just outside my bedroom window - my roof is still dripping.

“We had a power cut for about an hour-and-a-half but we were settled back in our houses with the power back on by 9.15pm.”

Fifty firefighters - including crews from Long Melford, Clare, Sudbury and Halstead stations as well as the turntable ladder from Bury St Edmunds - battled Thursday evening's blaze.

Residents evacuated included Ms Steer and her neighbour Susie Dixon, whose pool provided much needed water to douse the flames.

She said: “I've only got a couple of inches of water left in my 25ft swimming pool, which they used to put out the fire. It was terrifying really with the bangs and the smell of smoke from the tyres.”

Steve Dudden, Sub Officer at Long Melford Fire Station said: “Two inspection officers have been on the site today trying to establish what the cause was.

“The road will still be cordoned off because of a high wall, which is unstable.

“We can't have members of the public going past there in case it falls on them or their car.”

The fire is not being treated as suspicious.

The owner of the car centre was not available for comment yesterday.

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