Suffolk Food Hall saved in blaze horror

BUSINESSES at the award-winning Suffolk Food Hall said they hoped to re-open by Friday after a blaze threatened to destroy the building today.

BUSINESSES at the award-winning Suffolk Food Hall said they hoped to re-open by the weekend after a blaze threatened to destroy the building today.

Around 40 firefighters were called to the large barn off The Strand on the Ipswich to Shotley road at Wherstead at 4.40am.

The hall is home a number of businesses.

A fire brigade spokesman said the blaze, which he described as severe, began in the boiler room and covered around 20 metres. It had also threatened spread to the 50 metre-long roof.

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Although the design of the roof and the fire crews prevented the fire doing so, it did cause extensive smoke damage.

The blaze was discovered by a baker arriving for work.

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Andrew Paul, one of the directors of Suffolk Food Hall, said it had been a bittersweet 24 hours after the hall won a national award last night in Shropshire.

However, he added that the damage was not as bad as it could have been thanks to the efforts of the firefighters.

Mr Paul said: “I came over the Orwell Bridge this morning and saw the blue lights and thought ''this is terrible'.

“The firefighters were absolutely superb, just phenomenal. The fire damage is limited. The smoke damage is extensive, but not insurmountable.

“Everything that was in the chillers and freezers was saved. Our next task is to empty the shelves and clean as we go, save what we can, and restock.

“We will work tirelessly and be up and running as soon as we can.”

Claire Muckleston, owner of the Bourne Garden Centre, said: “I think the main thing is going to be the soot and the smell. The garden centre was unscathed but the smell of smoke and the soot that's laying on everything means it's going to be a big clean-up job. I would love to be open by Friday.”

Jane Eaton, who is responsible for the marketing and events at the food hall, said: “We hope to be operational by the weekend, possibly with a limited service.”

Firefighter Geoff Pyke, who is group manager and Ipswich district commander, described the blaze as severe, but praised the insulation in the roof for the fire not being able to spread.

Mr Pyke said: “When we arrived the place was percolating smoke from all the openings on the roof. We tried to ventilate the building by opening all the apertures.”

Firefighters were concerned the fire could ignite the foam insulation in the roof, which was tightly sandwiched between two sheets of metal.

However, Mr Pyke said that although they had to rip into the sheets of metal from the top and bottom, the quality of the foam meant the heat had not caused it to ignite. Had it done so the roof would probably have been destroyed and the building significantly damaged.

Mr Pyke said: “We can only assume the foam in the roof was of a fire retardant nature and withstood the fire.”

Due to size of the incident The Salvation Army emergency response unit went to the scene to provide firefighters with refreshments.

Specialist fire investigators were at premises today trying to establish the cause of the blaze.

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