A large part of the centre of Fakenham is set to remain sealed off for the rest of the day after a major fire destroyed one of the town’s best known shops this morning, Sunday May 25.
Dozens of emergency workers are still at the scene of the blaze, which broke out in the Original Factory Shop premises in Upper Market at around 10.30am today.
Police say all people who were in the area at the time have been accounted for and there are no reports of any injuries at this stage.
But a spokesman added that initial assessments suggested that the building, which was home to the town’s branch of furniture chain Aldiss for more than a century, has been completely destroyed.
The blaze also forced the evacuation of a number of nearby homes in the Red Lion Court area, while around 80 people were also taken out of the St Peter and St Paul church, where the regular Sunday service was just about to begin when the alarm was raised.
Church warden Alison Harding said: “We were literally just about to start the service and two young girls ran in and told us the factory shop was on fire. Our rector (the Rev Adrian Bell) ran out, had a look, came back in and said ‘Somebody ring 999.’”
“I saw flames coming out of the front of the shop and a car that was parked there burnt out.”
She said there had been thick smoke inside the church as the fire intensfied and reported that the roof of the shop building had collapsed. A number of valuable items were also removed from the building.
Mrs Harding added that there had been concerns about flying embers hitting the church roof and the possibility of windows falling out if the lead in them was melted by the flames.
But she said: “As long as we have still got a church, that is the main thing.”
A rest centre is understood to have been set up at the Fakenham Community Centre for residents who have been evacuated as a result of the blaze.
And the main access routes into the town centre, Oak Street and Norwich Street, are likely to remain closed for at least several more hours as work to put out the fire continues and assessments of the structural safety of the building are carried out.