THE impact of a devastating fire which has destroyed one of Bury St Edmunds most historic buildings, will be felt for some time, a leading firefighter has said.
About 80 firefighters tackled the blaze at the Strada Italian restaurant in Cupola House in The Traverse following a call shortly before 9pm last night.
A smouldering dusty heap of rubble is all that remains from a large part of the back of the building which collapsed.
Part of the front has also collapsed will the building has also slightly moved.
Deputy district commander for Bury, and Bury station commander Jon Illingworth said: “The building remains structually unsound and an inner cordon will remain in place until the owners and a structural engineer have been out to assess it and carry out any work that needs doing.”
Much of the town centre is already closed to traffic. Some businesses in the Traverse and the Buttermarket backing onto Skinner Street may have to close for several days until the building is made safe, said Cmdr Illingworth.
“Our primary concern is public safety.
He said the observatory on top of the building had also collapsed. All that remains in a gold ball that landed in the top of Jessops.
Residents living in four flats above the neighbouring properties had to be evacuated and have also been forced to move out until the building is made safe.
Cmdr Illingworth said they fire service pulled its breathing apparatus out of the building early on after it became apparent that there was a risk of collapse.
The restaurant had been busy at the time of the fire – among those enjoying a meal there was a hen party.
Thankfully nobody was hurt in the incident.
“This is the biggest fire that Bury has had for a number of years and it is also the one that will have the most impact because It is in the middle of the town centre and the building itself is historically significant,” said cmdr Illingworth.
He added that there will be ‘no quick fix’ to getting the building open again anytime soon.
The fire broke out in a kitchen in the basement but spread quickly.
Firefighters prevented the fire from spreading to neighbouring buildings but said there may be some water damage as they had to gain access to these so they could fight the fire.
A full fire investigation will be undertaken.
Skinner Street, The Traverse, Buttermarket and Cornhill are currently closed to vehicular traffic. There are also road closures on Guildhall Street at the junction with Churchgate Street; Woolhall Street at the junction with St Andrew’s Street South; and Abbeygate Street at the junction with Buttermarket.
The town centre remains open to pedestrians with restrictions on Skinner Street and The Traverse, the majority of businesses are operating normally.