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Faversham fire in Preston Street being treated as arson

By Bess Browning

A huge town centre blaze which ripped through historic buildings could have been arson.

Police have been investigating and now say they are treating the fire as suspicious.

Six fire engines and a height vehicle, as well as police and ambulance crews, were called to the scene, but no one was injured.

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."

Fire crews who had spent the night tackling the blaze and then damping down finally left the scene in Preston Street this morning as attempts to establish what caused the fire began.

The blaze broke out just before 9pm in a row of shops, including a furniture store.

The drama unfolded in the historic centre of the town with many centuries-old buildings nearby.

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

New pictures show the extent of the damage in the roof of one of the buildings affected. Picture: Oliver Sebastien.

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

All residents in Jacob Yard had to leave their homes.

The scene today
Fire investigators at the scene this morning

The fire was brought under control by around 11pm.

A Kent Fire and Rescue spokesman said this morning that crews had remained at the scene damping down remaining hotspots and checking roof voids to ensure the fire did not spread to a range of adjoining flats.

"Firefighters fought hard to contain the fire to the ground floor shop premises and the first floor and roof directly above it, using fog spike to penetrate roof voids of neighbouring flats, while the height vehicle was used as a water tower," the spokesman added.

Surrounding flats were evacuated, however all residents were able to return to their homes in the early hours.

Emergency services at the blaze in Preston Street, Faversham

The spokesman added: "Attendance was reduced to two fire engines at around 1pm and crews continued to damp down remaining hotspots, leaving the scene with Kent Police shortly before 8am today.

"Crews will return during the morning to make further checks."

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus try to bring the fire under control

The shops affected are Faversham Furnishings, the former Mackays solicitors building and Empire Menswear.

Last night, witnesses said the roofs of three properties were alight and a fire brigade turntable ladder was being used to bring the blaze under control.

Empire menswear clothing store owner Chris Staff said this morning he was completely distraught after his shop was damaged in the fire.

He believes the majority of the damage is at the rear of the building.

He told KentOnline: "I had a call at around 9.45pm to tell me what was going on.

The night sky was lit up at the flames shot through the roof. Picture: Ethan Hood

"I am gutted. We have not been given access yet but we have been told it is quite significant.

"I couldn't believe it. We had a break-in just a month or so ago and now this. I am just trying to make an honest living.

"We will be getting in there as soon as possible to make sure it is safe and secure."

The Faversham Furnishing shop posted on Facebook: "Well what can we say..

"Due to unforeseen circumstances we will be closed for a few days. Please keep an eye out for developments, once things improve and we can sit in the shop,we can still order furniture from our suppliers so all is not lost

"Please msg me if we can help with any orders. Hopefully this will not take too long to sort out.

"I would also like to thank everybody for your kind words and help last night especially our fire crews."

Police and ambulance crews were also at the scene

Kent Fire and Rescue said the "large fire" had broken out on the ground floor of a two-storey terraced shop.

A spokesman said: "Crews wearing breathing apparatus are tackling the blaze using hose reel jets, covering jets and fog spike.

"There are no reported injuries and the cause is not yet known."

Anyone with information about the cause of the fire should contact police on 01795 419119 quoting 19-1349.

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