Firefighters battled a blaze at a historic building in Haverhill last night which is thought to have been started deliberately.
A total of 10 fire engines were called to the former Atterton and Ellis ironworks factory, in Hamlet Road, after fire broke out there at around 8.35pm.
Crews from Haverhill, Clare, Linton, Withersfield, Sible Hedingham, Wickhambrook, Bury St Edmunds and Ixworth worked to bring the fire under control by 11pm.
A spokeswoman for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service said they received multiple calls about the fire and sent three crews initially, with more requested at around 8.45pm.
Cllr Tony Brown, who represents Haverhill on the town, borough and county councils, rushed to the scene last night after receiving a call from a council colleague.
He said: “He was driving past and could see the flames going through the roof. I got down there about 10 minutes or so after and by then a couple of fire engines had already started work, but because it was moving up the roof space it kept breaking through.
“More fire engines arrived and a turntable came from Bury, which was a great help because they could blast water into the roof space, but it was quite a battle to contain – it was about three hours until they were making headway.”
Cllr Brown said the building involved in the fire had been ‘extensively damaged’ and left with big holes in the roof.
It is thought to have been a Victorian building, with the original 1820 silk mill part of the complex remaining untouched.
Although it had stood empty for several years, since Atterton and Ellis – rebranded as Bernhard and Company – relocated to the industrial estate, there had been plans to redevelop the site.
“It’s just a big shame really. I hope they can progress the plans as they were,” said Cllr Brown.
“The fire brigade were there very quickly and threw a lot of resources at it,” he added. “They did a first class job, so we’re really thankful for that.”
Watch commander Neil Franklin said crews arrived to find a ‘well developed’ fire, contained on the first floor and in the roof.
He said they ‘did the best they could’ to tackle it from the outside, using water jets through windows, until the aerial appliance arrived.
“That’s when the aerial platform comes into its own because it can hit the fire as it comes through the roof,” he said, adding: “We’ve had small incidents on the site before, there are probably two or three buildings on site, but this was obviously the biggest.”
Crews were on site for about four and a half hours, with one staying overnight to monitor the building.
Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service believe the fire was started deliberately but a fire investigator is due to meet police at the site this morning to look into it further.
Mr Franklin said the investigation would reveal more but there was a ‘definite sway’ towards it being suspicious.
A spokesman for Bernhard and Company, which owns the site, expressed relief that nobody was injured and thanked Haverhill emergency services for their ‘prompt and skilled response’ in extinguishing the fire.
Company representatives were due to visit the scene today to assess the extent of the damage.