Update and video: Huge blaze destroys historic building in Bury St Edmunds town centre

The remains of Cupola House and Strada restaurant in Bury St Edmunds today

Sunday, June 17, 2012 9:35 AM

PART of Bury St Edmunds town centre is likely to remain sealed off for much of Sunday as police and fire experts begin an examination into a major fire at one of its best-known buildings.

More than 80 firefighters were called out on Saturday night to tackle a huge fire at historic Cupola House, which is home to Strada restaurant.

There are sixteen appliances at the scene, including two aerial appliances.

Speaking at about 12.45am on Sunday morning, Karl Rolfe, area commander for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said the fire was contained to the Strada building, but there was “extensive damage” to the upper levels of that building.

Members of the crowds gathered around the exclusion zone could be seen with tears in their eyes when the cupola collapsed before them.

Mr Rolfe said: “It’s been very difficult for us because it was so well-established early on so by the time we arrived we had an established fire in a number of levels in the building and our primary concern was spread to the other buildings. And we were obviously fearful of a roof collapse because the fire was established well in the roof.”

He said they tried as hard as they could, but they had to withdrew their firefighters from the building because it became too risky. He said the cupola itself came down through the building and there had also been a collapse from the ground floor to the basement.

“As soon as we realised we were going to suffer a collapse we had to be more defensive with the tactics because there was the risk to the life of the firefighters, and that risk was identified and it did actually happen.”

He said there was the potential for further collapse, but he thought major structural collapse was unlikely.

Strada is based within Bury’s 400-year-old Cupola House, and the Cupola tower is believed to have collapsed as the fire continues to ravage the building.

The incident broke out just before 9pm, initially to reports of a fire in the cellar.

Two fire crews attended, and then called for two more as back up. by 10pm, as the blaze developed, a total of 12 crews had been called to the scene from all over Suffolk.

At 10.45pm, firefighters were withdrawn from the building due to the danger of it collapsing. it was later confirmed, just before midnight, that the roof had collapsed.

Crews are expected to be there throughout Sunday morning.

Eyewitness Keith Meekins, 58, who is from Bury, said: “It’s such a shame to see it. Let’s hope they can save it. It’s a lovely old building.”

A 39-year-old woman from the town, who did not wish to be named, said: “It’s just really sad because it’s such a beautiful building.”

The new JD Wetherspoon pub in the historic Corn Exchange, which runs along The Traverse, shut at 10.40pm as the venue has no running water as it is being diverted to the fire.

But The Nutshell pub, in The Traverse, remained open. Manager Jack Burton said: “I haven’t seen the extent of the damage. I don’t know what’s happening up there.”

Update and video: Huge blaze destroys historic building in Bury St Edmunds town centre


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