Fire rips through block of flats

AN Ipswich family told how they fled for their life as fire tore through a block of flats.Today fire investigators were due to pick through the wreckage that was once a home.

AN Ipswich family told how they fled for their life as fire tore through a block of flats.

Today fire investigators were due to pick through the wreckage that was once a home.

The fierce blaze left another 11 families homeless.

Residents were evacuated after a fire ripped through the block of flats in Downside Close, Ipswich.

Two homes were completely destroyed in the blaze which started soon after 7pm last night.

The blaze began in a third-floor flat and spread quickly to its neighbouring apartment through the roof space as more than 30 firefighters fought back the flames.

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During the fire, neighbours reported hearing two loud explosions, flames shooting into the sky and thick black smoke filling the cul-de-sac.

Graham Baker, 47, told how he managed to escape the blaze with his wife and 15-year-old daughter, but was today facing up to losing his home of 19 years.

"My wife lost her mother this year so we have lost all the photos of my wife's mother and all her little possessions.

"I didn't think about grabbing anything, we just got out of there. Now we have lost everything."

"But the most important thing is nobody got hurt."

Mr Baker described how discovered the beginnings of the inferno.

"The fire started next door. My wife smelt smoke and I went round to the balcony and had a look," he said.

"I tried to fight it with a fire extinguisher but I really didn't stand much of a chance, so we ran down the stairs and got out. I managed to get one of our cats out but I couldn't find the other one."

He rescued his neighbour's pet springer spaniel, Tyler, when he realised his neighbour Richard and Claire Allum were not at home.

"There was smoke and flames on the carpet I couldn't get in. It was so hot I could only stand in the doorway on the balcony. I managed to get the dog out. I just hoped that no one was in the flat."

Unemployed Mr Allum, 43, one of the occupants of the other gutted flat, was in total shock today.

He said: "We've lost everything. We've got nowhere to live. We had only just kitted out the flat and everything was new. All I have is only the clothes I stand up in. I stayed at a friend's last night but we can't stay there tonight there's no room."

Fortunately no-one was hurt in the blaze.

Residents of the 12 flats were placed in temporary accommodation last night.

Sanctuary Housing Association, which owns the block of flats and Ipswich Borough Council had made arrangements to house the residents.

Last night as the fire raged, six fire engines squeezed into the close and residents spilled out on to the road and pavement to watch the action.

The Salvation Army and the Red Cross were called to the scene to offer counselling to the families left homeless.

One crew from Elmswell was at the scene early today to prevent any residents going back into their homes.

Leading firefighter Andy Rose said: "It was a severe fire in a residential area. It is always heartbreaking when something like this happens.

"Two flats were totally devastated and four flats in the block were water damaged."

He added the cause was unknown but a fire service investigation was due to begin today while the area was cordoned off.

Part of the roof space had collapsed.

Assistant divisional officer Gary Clark, the officer in charge at the incident, said: "Everybody was accounted for on arrival of the fire service.

"The block of flats was evacuated for safety reasons during the initial stage of the fire.

"The crews were confronted by a well developed fire on the second floor flat which had spread to an adjacent floor due to the intense heat. It was a build up of intense heat which caused difficulty for breathing apparatus crews to make quick progress into the building.

"A family dog was rescued in one of the flats by a neighbour. The occupants of the flat where the fire started weren't in at the time. Both of the flats were gutted."

He said there was smoke damage to flats along the second floor and was some water damage to flats on the first floor.

"The crews worked well and stopped the spread of fire to any other flats. The fire was contained within two flats."

A 31-year-old mother of two who lives opposite said: "I could see the flames coming out of the roof. I think it is just heartbreaking for those concerned. I feel upset for them."