James Cleverly praises community reaction to high street fires in Halstead

Seven pumps attended the first fire on Halstead High Street. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Seven pumps attended the first fire on Halstead High Street. Picture: GREGG BROWN

An Essex MP has praised the community spirit of residents after a town’s high street was hit by two fires in less than two days.

Officers on the scene of Friday's fire. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Officers on the scene of Friday's fire. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Firefighters from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service were first called to Halstead on Friday morning at around 11.15am to reports of a serious blaze at the Whispers Wine Bar.

Seven crews from Halstead and beyond – including the Aerial Ladder Platform from Colchester – tackled the fire, which is thought to have started accidentally in the kitchen on the first floor.

But on Saturday night teams from Colchester, Halstead and Braintree were sent to the scene again after a second fire ignited from the embers of the first.

Chiefs said hotspots from the first fire, which took hold of the roof area, sparked the second blaze.

James Cleverly (Conservative MP for Braintree) Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS

James Cleverly (Conservative MP for Braintree) Picture: HOUSE OF COMMONS - Credit: Archant


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James Cleverly, MP for Braintree, met with residents and business owners in Halstead on Saturday after the first incident had taken place. Last night Mr Cleverly said he was upset to hear of a second fire – and spoke of the way in which the community was hoping to help those affected.

“A lot of people are very sad,” he said.

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“The Whispers Bar is a hub. Losing, even if just temporarily, a business like that is saddening.

“There is a real community spirit about them getting them up and running.”

Fire bosses say the first floor of the wine bar suffered severe fire damage, and that although thermal imaging equipment was used to scour the roof extensively, the embers that sparked the second may have been inside voids and wall cavities, rendering them undetectable.

Station manager Lee Palfreyman said: “It is rare for this to happen, but the complexity of the structure of the building, voids and wall cavities meant that the hot spots were undetectable.”

No-one was hurt in either fire, he added.

On both occasions, the high street was closed to allow firefighters to tackle the blaze and carry out investigation work afterwards.

Witnesses reported seeing several crews working hard to put out the flames as the fires took hold. Wardale Williams Opticians was left with water damage and without power as a result of the two incidents.

In a post on Facebook, bosses said that they were hoping to be open fully by this afternoon or Tuesday morning.

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