Blaze engulfs Harleston high street flats

Firefighters have this afternoon been called to a blaze in Harleston high street.Six fire crews from across Norfolk are currently at the scene of the second floor property in the Thoroughfare.

The community spirit of a south Norfolk town was praised after shopkeepers and residents rallied round to try and put out a major high street blaze.

Townsfolk ran out of their shops and homes with buckets filled with water and fire extinguishers to douse the flames during its early stages at the Thoroughfare in Harleston.

At its height more than 50 firefighters and ten crews from across Norfolk and Suffolk were tackling the blaze yesterday, which had taken hold of a row of three first-floor terraced flats and the roof space.

Three ground floor shops - the Kids Stuff toy shop, Kids Wear clothes store, and the Harleston Turf bookmakers - were also evacuated.

A fire investigation will also begin today into the cause of the blaze, which is believed to have been started by an out of control back garden bonfire at about 3.30pm yesterday. The Thoroughfare is still closed today.

The centre of Harleston was brought to a standstill as firefighters used an aerial ladder to reach the flats fire, which was under control by 6pm. No one was injured.

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Judith Balls, of Dickleburgh, who runs the Kids Stuff second hand toy shop, said: 'We saw the fire first. We looked outside and we saw a bench and chairs on fire in the back garden.'

'I am absolutely gutted. We only opened a year ago and now this has happened. We are lucky in a way I suppose, but when you have put so much effort into something it is quite hard to take.'

The shopkeeper also praised the efforts of her neighbours.

She said: 'There were eight blokes that came from nowhere and ran into the shops filling buckets and using fire extinguishers. They were fantastic.'

Group manager Duncan Ashworth, of Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, said the incident may have caused some structural damage to the terraced properties. He added that firefighters did well to stop the flames from spreading.

Crews attended from Harleston, Diss, Wymondham, Loddon, Norwich, Stradbroke, and Eye attended.