Fire damages historic office building

FIRE destroyed part of the roof of a derelict building in Ipswich today in the latest and most serious blaze to take hold in the property.Fire crews were called to the boarded up premises in College Street during the early hours of this morning.

By Jo Macdonald

FIRE destroyed part of the roof of a derelict building in Ipswich today in the latest and most serious blaze to take hold in the property.

Fire crews were called to the boarded up premises in College Street at 2.45am, only hours after they had extinguished a separate blaze in the same building.

Today's fire is believed to be the fourth or fifth to have started in the last week in the cottage-style building which was formerly used by Burton's confectioners. All have been of doubtful origin.

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Assistant Divisional Officer Paul Collins said: "There have been a number of events to take hold in this one building. I'm aware of another three in the last week.

"However, today's fire is the most effective to date."

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Investigations are still on-going to pinpoint the exact causes of the fires but with the blazes taking hold in an empty, unpowered building, where there is evidence of use by the homeless and drug users, they are being treated as doubtful.

"The building is unoccupied and boarded up," ADO Collins said. "And there is no electricity in the building which would normally be a source of ignition.

"We can also tell they are doubtful from the locations of the different fires. They are isolated fires in strange places."

Yesterday's less serious fire was a small blaze that started on the ground floor of the two-storey property at 6.44pm. Two crews from Princes Street attended the fire which was under control by 7.22pm.

However, little more than seven hours later Ipswich firefighters were back on the scene where a serious fire had developed in the building's roof.

Due to the extent of the fire, the initial two crews called for assistance and during the morning were joined by more firefighters from Princes Street, Colchester Road, Felixstowe and Holbrook. An engine and hydraulic platform from Colchester were also called in.

ADO Collins said: "There was a seriously developed fire in the roof. It was well established when the first crews arrived.

"The roof was doing exactly what it is designed to do, keeping everything out. This allowed the fire to develop and progress.

"Also, because of the time of night, no one saw it until it popped out and the flames could be seen. That's when we got the call."

"The crews arrived and stopped it spreading under the two wings. It was awkward to bring under control because of the risk of putting crews inside. There was thick smoke and we had to cut in from the outside."

The blaze was under control by 5.36am but firefighters remained on the scene for most of the morning, damping down, removing loose tiles from the roof and making the building safe.

As people made their way to work this morning the damage to the roof was evident and the hydraulic platform was still in use as firefighters made efforts to remove as much of the damaged roof as they could.

"Structurally the building is safe," ADO Collins said. "However, there is a high unsupported gable end and lots of loose tiles.

"We've had a borough surveyor down here to assess the building and building control will be here later."

A spokesman for Suffolk Police confirmed officers were speaking with the fire service in their investigations into the fire.

He said: "We will liase with fire investigators but at this stage, due to the circumstances of the fire being in a derelict building, we are treating it as suspicious.

"We would appeal for anyone who was in the area and may have seen anything or who has any other information to contact us on 01473 613500."

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