Norfolk: Fire station and brand new engine destroyed by blaze in Downham Market

The Downham Market fire station blaze. Picture by Kathy Mellish.

The Downham Market fire station blaze. Picture by Kathy Mellish. - Credit: Archant

A retained fire station in Downham Market was last night destroyed by fire - along with a brand new engine parked inside.

Norfolk’s deputy chief fire officer Roy Harold said the fire station is next to the police station and police officers first noticed smoke at about 12.30am.

Dozens of firefighters from across Norfolk and Cambridgeshire were called to the scene and around 20 homes near to the fire station had to be evacuated.

Some breathing apparatus cylinders exploded in the fire, the fire service have revealed.

An investigation into the cause of the blaze has now been launched and teams are currently at the Ryston Close site.

They have searched the area to make sure there are no more cylinders that could explode.

Early estimations are that the station and fire engine will need to be replaced at a cost of around £1.5m. The fire engine that was destroyed cost an estimated £300,000.

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Mr Harold said the Downham firefighters are retained and all live within five minutes of the station.

“When they got to the station they saw it was alight and the fire engine they needed to put out the fire was also on fire so they could not use it.”

Crews from King’s Lynn, Methwold, Swaffham, Littleport, Wisbech, Terrington, the water carrier from Fakenham and the control unit from Wymondham attended the fire in London Road.

No one was injured.

Kathy Mellish, a borough councillor for Downham Market, who lives opposite the fire station, was evacuated from her home. She said there were about six explosions from the blaze and she was able to return to her home by 2am.

“Something woke me up and the next explosion was almost immediately after and I thought the police station was under attack. I could not believe it when I opened the window and saw the fire station red raw alight. The bangs were phenomenal and frightening.”

Tony White, who lives in Wingfields, off London Road, said he was getting ready for bed at about 12.30am when he heard a number of explosions.

“Whilst I was in the house I heard at least four explosions and they echoed around like crazy and was sufficiently violent that the house shook. My initial reaction was that it was embarrassing for the fire service,” he said.

David Sharman, mayor of Downham, said: “Thankfully there are no injuries to anybody and they have a back up fire engine. They are saying the whole building will need to be demolished. The thing that is surprising is that it has done no damage to the police station next door.”

Deputy Mayor John Doyle said: “The people of the town fought for years and years to get a state of the art facility and it is all gone in about two hours. It’s devastating.”

Mr Harold said: “Overnight the police have been hosting us and they have agreed to host us for the short term as well.”

He said a replacement fire engine had been delivered from King’s Lynn by 5am.

“We have not lost fire cover. We have lost the fire station but we did not lose fire cover. The fire crews are quite upset about the fire. They live and breathe the fire service so it is gutting for them. They are really proud of their fire station.”

The fire station in Downham Market relocated from Priory Road in 2006.