Published: 00:00, 19 June 2014
| Updated: 06:34, 19 June 2014
A three-storey building being converted into six luxury flats in Margate High Street was gutted by flames in the early hours of this morning.
Six fire crews fought the mystery blaze.
No one was injured but the flats, worth £720,000, were completely destroyed after the roof collapsed and the front of the building crashed into the road.
Retired betting shop manager Richard Bean, 66, who lives in a flat above Sheldon’s pub next door to the blazing building, was woken by a fireman hammering on his door at 3am.
Mr Bean said: “I had an extremely lucky escape. I would have slept through it all.
"I was woken by banging on my door. The fireman told me to get out as quickly as possible.
“I just had time to get dressed but I didn’t have time to take anything else with me.
"As I came out the front door I could see the flames shooting out of the top of the building and debris was falling all around me. It was as if a bomb had gone off.
"The firemen reckoned if they had been 10 minutes later in getting to the fire they would have lost the pub, too.”
Electricity was turned off to a third of shops in the HIgh Street as firefighters using a high-level mobile platform poured water over the blaze.
They had to stop while UK Power Network engineers isolated the premises so the rest of the High Street could be reconnected to electricity.
Firefighters have now connected a hose to the top of the Mill Street multi-storey car park to put the fire out.
"As I came out the front door I could see the flames shooting out of the top of the building and debris was falling all around me" - witness Richard Bean
A full investigation has started into the cause of the blaze.
Kent Fire and Rescue Service Watch Manager Nick Salt from Whitstable said: “We understand the fire started in the basement but it is too early to say why.”
Margate crews were first on the scene at 2am and discovered the basement and ground floor well alight.
As the flames spread, the roof and upper floors collapsed forcing crews to withdraw for their own safety.
The building was being converted into four two-bedroom and two one-bedroom apartments.
Video: Alexander Rourke was a witness to the fire
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