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Fire rips through chapel

PUBLISHED: 06:46 18 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:33 03 March 2010

SIX fire crews tackled a fierce blaze which ripped through a methodist chapel , leaving it severely damaged.

Stunned members of the congregation at Fressingfield, near Halesworth, were reduced to tears as they saw parts of their lovingly cared for church in New Street blackened with fire damage and covered in soot on Sunday.

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SIX fire crews tackled a fierce blaze which ripped through a methodist chapel , leaving it severely damaged.

Stunned members of the congregation at Fressingfield, near Halesworth, were reduced to tears as they saw parts of their lovingly cared for church in New Street blackened with fire damage and covered in soot yesterday.

Six crews were called, and firefighters in breathing apparatus took just over an hour to bring the blaze, which started in an electrical organ pump and spread to the roof area, under control.

Windows were broken as firefighters fought to gain access to the blaze.

Crews from Stradbroke, Eye, Framlingham, Harleston and two from Norwich, arrived on the scene just before 4pm after a neighbour raised the alarm. The building was locked and empty when the fire broke out.

Last night, members of the congregation set to work removing hymn books and other items from the scene for safekeeping, as they salvaged what they could from the wreckage.

They were in the midst of a refurbishment plan for the chapel, built in 1873. They have been hoping to replace pews with chairs and make it more user-friendly. A new after-school club, starting in September, has also been planned for the building.

But church officials vowed they would not be deterred by the setback.

George Frost, a senior steward at the chapel, found out about the blaze and rushed to the scene to unlock the doors.

"I could hear the fire crackling inside and it was full of smoke," he said.

The congregation were upset, but would rally to help restore it, he added.

"It'll come back again," he said. "A couple have come to me in tears. They are bound to be upset."

But he added: "It could have been a lot worse in the middle of the night."

If it had broken out then, it might have spread unchecked, he pointed out.

Rev Robin Searles, superintendent minister of the circuit, said: "It's a lovely little chapel, very lovingly cared for."

Although it had been damaged, he predicted it would "rise like a phoenix from the ashes". "They have that sort of courage here," he said.

Assistant Divisional Officer Mark Labdon, of Suffolk Fire Service, described it as "quite a severe fire".

"It has severely damaged the ground floor part of the chapel, smoke-logged the entire premises and spread to the roof, although we were able to save most of the roof," he said

"When we first arrived the fire was completely bottled up within the building. We had to break into the building to access it and fight the fire from inside."

He added: "We have done well because had it spread into the roof, it would have spread unchecked. As it is, we have stopped it at roof level."


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