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Faversham fire: Empire menswear owner Chris Staff says blaze has devastated his business

By Bess Browning

A shop owner says a huge blaze which may have been started deliberately has devastated his business.

Empire menswear was one of three buildings in the historic Preston Street in Faversham to be badly damaged by the fire on Wednesday night.

Owner Chris Staff, who was hit by a break-in just a month ago, still hasn't been allowed into the shop but says the back of the building is pretty much non-existent after the blaze.

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Empire menswear was badly damaged in the blaze.

Six fire engines and a height vehicle, as well as police and ambulance crews, were called to the scene at around 9pm on Wednesday, where they stayed until the early hours of Thursday.

VIDEO: The fire is being treated as suspicious.

Empire menswear, Faversham Furnishing and the former Mackay & Co solicitors were all affected, but no one was injured.

Yesterday, police confirmed they were treating the fire as suspicious.

The fire took hold of three historic buildings.

Mr Staff said today: "The storage unit we use at the back of the building is completely gutted and the rear of the solicitors is even worse.

"Nobody is sure as yet where the fire was started.

"We heard yesterday that it was suspicious, which is terrible. The fire has devastated us a little family business.

"Why would anyone out there do this?

The aftermath of the huge fire in Preston Street.

"I feel relieved that nobody was hurt as there are flats above us and if they were there, this could be have been much more serious.

"I felt relief but now I feel angry and confused. We don't know the effect this is going to have on our business long term, as people may start going elsewhere.

"I hate the thought that someone has done this deliberately. We are just trying to do something nice in the town."

The blaze lit up the skies of Faversham.

Flames lit up the night sky as the blaze took hold, watched by a large number of shocked bystanders who had congregated at the scene.

People in neighbouring properties were forced to evacuate as thick black smoke filled the air.

A police spokesman said: "The cause of the fire is currently being treated as suspicious and work is ongoing to determine the circumstances of the incident."

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