An historic building which has served the people of Fakenham for more than a century is in ruins after a devastating fire yesterday.
The Original Factory Shop building on Upper Market, which also housed a number of flats above the shop, is set to be demolished after a devastating blaze broke out there on Sunday morning.
Two people had to be rescued from neighbouring homes as the flames spread, though it is not believed that anyone was injured.
And a second commercial unit, which was the former Curry’s store, was also destroyed, though other nearby buildings largely escaped the inferno.
Chief fire officer Nigel Williams said earlier: “We’re looking at a very damaged structure and hoping there is no further collapse beyond what can be seen.
“We’re trying to make steady progress to make sure the building remains safe and any pockets of fire that are still in there are extinguished.”
Before it was taken on by the Original Factory Shop, the building housed the town’s Aldiss branch for more than 100 years.
And Lynn News Fakenham correspondent Jim Harding said yesterday: “The people I talked to are very, very sad that a building as nice as this, which has been in the heart of Fakenham for over 100 years, has been lost altogether.”
Firefighters spent yesterday damping down at the scene as investigations into the cause of the blaze got underway.
At its height, up to 20 fire engines from across Norfolk, including three from Lynn, were at the scene.
Hundreds of people were evacuated from nearby homes and public buildings because of the blaze, which was first reported at around 10.30am on Sunday.
They included around 80 people who were gathered at the nearby St Peter and St Paul church, where the regular Sunday morning service was just about to begin when the alarm was raised.
Worshippers raced to remove valuable items from the church amid fears that the flames may spread to the 14th century building and the parish office was used to help people make contact with loved ones affected by the incident.
The church’s rector, Rev Adrian Bell, paid tribute to the emergency services for their response to the incident.
He said: “My main concern was for the safety of people. Buildings can be replaced, but not lives.
“Everyone worked so well together and the organisation of this major fire was extremely professional. The fire service, the police, ambulance, gas and electricity services all worked together.
“My thoughts are with those who have lost homes and also jobs.”
A special service of thanksgiving that no-one died in the fire will be held at the church this Sunday, June 1, at 10.30am.
A temporary rest centre was set up at the town’s community centre for residents evacuated as a result of the fire, though most were able to arrange temporary accommodation with friends or relatives.