Town in blaze drama

THE centre of Lowestoft was last night closed off and a safety cordon put in place after fire engulfed a property on the High Street.At the height of the blaze, nearly 60 firefighters were at the disused Ashley Boys Club, tackling flames up to 20ft high.

THE centre of Lowestoft was last night closed off and a safety cordon put in place after fire engulfed a property on the High Street.

At the height of the blaze, nearly 60 firefighters were at the disused Ashley Boys Club, tackling flames up to 20ft high.

Nine fire engines, including one hydraulic platform, were initially called to the scene after a 999 call at 4.15pm.

But appliances from Ipswich and Yarmouth were drafted in to support engines from Lowestoft and neighbouring towns.


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Nobody was injured in the blaze, although firefighters initially feared gas cylinders inside the building could cause an explosion and the police were alerted to ensure public safety.

Officers diverted rush hour traffic as they closed parts of the High Street along with the Ravine and the Whapload Road and Battery Green Road roundabout.

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An exclusion zone was also put in place around the area as hundreds of onlookers came out on the street.

One passer-by said: “I came to have a look because you can see the flames and the smoke billowing from the other side of town.”

Gary Smith, the firefighter in charge, said: “Because of the size of the flames and the risk of the building collapsing we were concerned for the safety of our firefighters.

“There were also problems gaining access because of the narrow streets. The hydraulic platform was used so our officers did not have to get too close to the flames.”

Francis Thomas from Suffolk County Council said: “As it turned out there was no need to evacuate nearby properties and the fire was under control shortly before 7pm.

“Firefighters later discovered the cylinders were not dangerous.

“But all the usual precautions had to be put in place to ensure there was absolutely no danger to the public.”

The building, a disused social club originally used by football teams and other local groups, has a timber frame.

The fire burnt on both of its two floors and its basement all but destroying the structure.

One fire crew remained over night and officers will return today to survey the aftermath.

Mr Thomas said: “At this stage we have no idea what started the fire. An investigation will be carried out and hopefully that will shed light on the cause.”

Police expected roads to remain closed into the night. A spokesman said: “In these situations it is important to ensure the building is stable.

“Therefore we can't risk reopening the roads to the public before the necessary checks have been carried out.”

The fire comes just five days after police evacuated homes on Denmark Road, Lowestoft.

Last Wednesday roads were closed after a suspected arson attack on Adams Volvo World.

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