Clean up begins after centre blaze

STAFF at a Suffolk leisure centre began clearing up today after a massive blaze devastated the building for the second time in its history.As revealed on The Evening Star website yesterday, Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre was undergoing a £1million refurbishment when fire alarms sounded at at about 4.

STAFF at a Suffolk leisure centre began clearing up today after a massive blaze devastated the building for the second time in its history.

As revealed on The Evening Star website yesterday, Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre was undergoing a £1million refurbishment when fire alarms sounded at at about 4.30pm and within minutes clouds of thick, black smoke were billowing out from the roof.

As the blaze took hold on the roof and the plumes of smoke were seen across the town, a series of small explosions shook through the building.

The fire struck just as young families were arriving for an evening's sport shortly after the end of the school day.


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Leisure centre staff quickly shut the building and moved out 40 men, women and children who were using the centre – including four or five people who had been using the small pool and were still in their swimming costumes.

The high wind soon whipped the fire across the rooftop, causing part of the structure to cave in on the empty pool below.

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Ten fire crews and about 60 firefighters from across the county were sent to the scene and brought the blaze under control within about 40 minutes – avoiding a repeat of the events of March 1980 when the building was almost completely destroyed in arson attack.

Terry Clements, portfolio holder for leisure and sport for St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which owns the building and is behind the £1m refurbishment scheme, said: "It is just devastating and a very sad day for Bury St Edmunds and the entire borough."

He added: "The leisure centre is crucial for the health of residents in St Edmundsbury and we were planning to pump millions into improving the facilities. This will now have to be put on hold.

"I just hope something good can come out of this disaster and we must now build for the future – that is the most important thing."

Leisure centre manager, Simon Ginders-Coxshall, said he had discovered the fire after being alerted by the alarms.

"We followed the evacuation procedures immediately as everyone was already assembled at the fire exits, we just had to make sure they were clear and everyone got out safely."

The main swimming pool has been closed to the public during refurbishment works concentrated on the pool plant room on the roof, where the fire appeared to have started.

Speaking at the scene, Suffolk Chief Fire Officer Malcolm Alcock said it was too early to say how the fire started but the structure of the building appeared to be sound and the fire had been mainly concentrated on the roof and pool plant room.

n In another major blaze, firefighters battled at the other end of the county last night to put out a blaze at a Bernard Matthews factory.

The blaze broke out in a deep fat fryer in the turkey-processing factory in Beccles Road, Holton, near Halesworth, shortly after 8.30pm.

Fire crews used foam in an attempt to put out the flames. The blaze was put out shortly after 10pm

It is not known how much of the single storey premises was damaged by the fire. There were no injuries.

Also, Suffolk firefighters tackled a blaze involving a caravanette and caravan that spread to a house.

The fire broke out in Canhams Road, Great Cornard, at 8.11pm yesterday and three fire engines from Nayland and Sudbury attended.

Firefighters discovered two vehicles alight in front of a house and fire on the ground and first floor of the property. Two gas cylinders were also involved in the fire, which was brought under control by 9pm.

Officers are treating the incident as suspicious and a fire investigations officer was called to examine the scene.

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