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Shop where firefighters are tackling blaze may be structurally unsound

Firefighters still tackling a blaze at a shop on Mill Road are not able to enter the building yet because of fears it may be structurally unsound.

The crews were called to Mr Gee’s electrical shop on Mill Road at around 11.20pm last night, which quickly spread to the roof and neighbouring flats. All residents were evacuated safely, but more than 90 firefighters were tackling the fire in the early hours of the morning.

Now officers are using aerial jets to pump water into the building as they are unable to access remaining ‘hotspots’ within the building.

Incident Commander Jamie Johnson told the Cambridge Independent: “Now because of the fire loading inside and because we can't physically go into the building we are restricted to external fire fighting.

“What ideally we would do is go in turn everything over and get right to the seat of where the fire is, but we cant we have to hit it externally so we have to put a lot of water via a powerful jet form an aerial to try and penetrate into those hotspots.

“The fire is effectively out, but if we were to go then those smouldering fires that we can't reach would eventually become substantial fires again and we would be back to the start. We have to plod on just trying to dig away at the fire with high pressure water jets.”

Neigbouring residents have been told to stay away from their homes and the road has been closed to all traffic. A multi agency meeting will take place later today to hear from structural engineers about whether the building is safe and what measures need to be taken to protect the public.

Incident Commander Johnson said: “We have had a structural engineer on site and it's just not safe to enter the building at the moment. We will have a meeting a bit later on to discuss the next stages of making the building safe so when the street has reopened members of the public are at risk.

Public safety is paramount. It's all very well putting out the fire but in that next phase when we try to get that street back to a bit of normality we need to make sure nobody is at any risk.

“The building is a fairly old. It has dormer windows, so they are the areas we are concerned about. I don’t know about the brick work until we can get inside. I'm certainly not saying the building needs to be pulled down, it just needs to be made safe and so people can have a good look at it and decide on the next stage when the fire service will take a back seat and the specialists come in.”

He added that Mr Gee, the owner of the shop, had ‘self-exited’ the building and confirmed that he was ‘safe and well’.

For anyone needing accommodation, the city council tweeted a number for residents to call.

Incident Commander Johnson explained that crews would work as quickly as possible as they were aware that people had been displaced by the fire.

He added that the gas works taking place on Mill Road had not held up any of the operations and that their site had been left ‘neat and tidy’ when workmen went home.

All through the night and this morning, Mill Road residents and the Salvation Army have been out helping the people who were evacuated and making drinks and snack for the firefighters.

The Salvation Army has been serving hot drinks and snacks to fire-fighters and police workers on the scene and has made up sandwiches with food donated by a local Sainsbury’s.

Salvation Army volunteers serving firefighters (13891993)
Salvation Army volunteers serving firefighters (13891993)

In addition to supporting emergency workers, The Salvation Army has offered to open its doors to residents who have been evacuated from their homes in case they need overnight accommodation this evening.

Salvation Army church leader Major Leanne Cordner, who was on the scene, said: “When we found emergency services responding to a fire at one of our neighbour’s properties and heard people had been evacuated from their homes, we wanted to do something to help.

“As a church and charity, we seek to alleviate distress wherever it is found. We will continue to be on hand to offer compassionate support, a listening ear and practical help to all those affected by the fire.”

The Salvation Army’s programme will be suspended until further notice while access to the building is limited. For further information, please call 01223 367633.

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