Published: 10:00, 17 May 2014
| Updated: 10:32, 17 May 2014
What was left of a blaze-hit building has been knocked down this afternoon.
Workers from the Kent Demolition Company took less than four hours to complete the job.
The fire broke out in the two-storey L-shaped building in the dip below Woodbury Park Cemetery and behind the houses in Park Road, not far from the centre of Tunbridge Wells, at 8.20pm last night.
Residents said the building had been derelict for at least nine years but believed it was last used by the construction and rubber extrusion company Baines.
Seven-year-old Toby French was the first to notice something was amiss. He ran in to his parents saying: ”The clouds are moving very fast.”
When parents Mark and Nicola French looked out they realised that his clouds were clouds of black smoke pouring from the disused warehouse behind their home.
The smoke was quickly followed by long sprouts of flame, and while a neighbour called 999, Nicola quickly gathered up Toby and his sister, five-year-old Olivia, still in their pyjamas, and took them to safety at a friend’s house a few streets away.
The fire was immediately behind Pegasus Court, an apartment block for the elderly, and with burning embers raining down on the building, police and firefighters decided to evacuate all 16 residents from there and from numbers 15 and 17 Park Road.
They were given shelter by neighbours. Mr French, who had initially lingered on concerned for his flat, also had to leave.
He said: “The residents’ cars were parked in the car park behind our homes, right next to one wall of the burning building. The firefighters drove them out for us. It was quite an inferno.”
Although the guttering and roof facia of Pegasus Court was damaged in the intense heat, fire crews were able to prevent the blaze from spreading to the residents’ properties and by 11.40pm, they were allowed to return to their homes, although they initially had no electricity.
Crews remained on the scene until 6.30am this morning, damping down. The cause of the blaze is being investigated.
Mr French, 40, said: “There have been tramps and squatters in there from time to time over the years, but we weren’t aware that there were any there currently.” No-one was injured in the fire.
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