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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Cumbria fire crews faced temperatures up to 700C in Harveys blaze

A senior fire officer has praised crews who prevented a ferocious blaze at a Carlisle furniture store from spreading.

Harveys fire photo
Flames ripped through the building

Fire ripped through Harveys in Crown Street in the early hours of Saturday.

The flames were so intense that the temperature inside is estimated to have reached between 600C and 700C.

Police believe the fire was started deliberately. They have launched an arson investigation and are appealing for information about a dark-coloured Volkswagen Golf, or similar car, seen at a parking space in Crown Street shortly before the fire began around midnight on Friday.

The 16,000sq ft building was completely destroyed.

At the height of the blaze, up to 30 firefighters, an aerial platform ladder and six appliances from Carlisle, Brampton, Longtown, Lazonby and Gretna were at the scene.

Crews remained there damping down until 1.30pm on Saturday.

Group manager Justin Robinson, of Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, said the arsonists had set fire to two industrial wheelie bins, filled with cardboard, at the back of the premises.

These had been pushed against the wall, allowing the fire to take hold.

He said: “When the first crews arrived around half the building was alight.

“The fire had taken hold at the rear where a lot of mattresses and flat-pack furniture is stored.

“The roof collapsed fairly early on and that was another problem because we couldn’t train jets on material underneath.

“The firefighters on the ground did a sterling job because the heat was incredible.

“We were concerned about the fire spreading to the [former] Reid’s store and Johnstone’s Decorating Centre next door.”

Police considered evacuating homes in Currock Street and the homeless families’ accommodation in Water Street.

The sealed off Crown Street, Currock Street and Lancaster Street.

A section of Crown Street, between the Robert Street junction and Currock Street, remains closed .

Station manager Craig Drinkald, of Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service, says the incident could have led to loss of life.

While firefighters were battling the flames, there was another call to a fire in a ground-floor flat in Myddleton Street where a woman in her twenties was treated for the effects of smoke inhalation. As all Carlisle crews were occupied, an appliance from Lazonby and one from Penrith, which was already in Carlisle ready to reinforce firefighters at Crown Street, were sent instead.

Police are stepping up their inquiries into the Crown Street blaze. Detective Inspector Craig Smith, who is leading the investigation, said: “We are asking anyone who might have any information to get in touch.”

The steel-clad building housed a Harveys furniture store on the ground floor and a Bensons for Beds on a mezzanine floor. Both retailers are owned by the South African Steinhoff Group.

Nobody from the firm was available for comment.

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