Published: 00:00, 04 July 2015
| Updated: 15:40, 04 July 2015
Five homes have been completely destroyed in a huge blaze in Canterbury city centre - although fire crews say it is now under control.
Crews were tonight bringing the blaze under control, with four of the 10 fire engines originally sent to the scene remaining.
The blaze started at about 2pm in the utility room of a top-floor flat in City Wall Avenue and quickly spread to neighbouring apartments.
A total of 30 homes were affected, with five completely destroyed, as flames ripped through the block of flats but all residents have been accounted for and no one is thought to be trapped in the building.
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Age UK in Castle Row is being used as a temporary evacuation centre.
A nearby resident said: "There's so many people crying. It's a lot of homes that have gone up in flames. It's at least nine or 10 flats that have gone and I think a floor just collapsed."
Roads throughout the city have been fully or partially closed, including the St Peter’s Place junction with Tower Way, Westgate Towers, Rheims Way and Old Watling Street.
Reporter Alex Claridge, 40, who lives in the Tannery complex, said: "It looks like the fire crews are finally getting on top of the blaze, but there is still a huge amount of thick smoke around.
"Thousands of tiles are strewn across the road and there is little left from about half of City Wall Avenue.
Ten pumps from Kent Fire and Rescue Service were originally tackling the blaze, although that number has now been reduced to four.Firefighters have made good progress with the fire that has now been scaled down from ten engines to four.
Paul Flaherty, assistant director at Kent Fire and Rescue Service, said this evening: "Crews have worked very hard to get this fire under control in very challenging conditions - dealing with a four storey building that was well alight. "The building is a timber framed construction and so the fire was able to spread very quickly among the frame voids."This meant it was a difficult fire to fight in the early stages. The fire broke through the roof and we used two height vehicles to get water directly at fourth floor level."
The front of the building has collapsed. Canterbury Council has opened a rest centre at Age Concern in Castle Row for anyone who has been displaced following today's fire at the Tannery Police incident commander Gordon Etheridge said that there had been considerable damage caused to the block of flats. Mr Claridge added: "Police have also arrived as the number people on the other side of the cordon swells. "Firefighters are now looking relieved that they have beaten the blaze and it would appear that the work of damping down any hotspots is about to begin."
He said: "We believe the fire is now under control, but this could change if the direction of the wind changes. There are no casualties, though we had to evacuate two dogs from the site, which consists of 25 flats.
"We believe that it started at flat number one and then spread through the block and we have had to close the city ring road in order for fire services to access the site.
"There has been a serious amount of damage to properties and we will be working with the council to ensure that the people we have had to evacuate are given support."
"What should have been a relaxing Saturday afternoon at home on warm summer's day has turned into a nightmare for dozens of panicked families living in The Tannery. "It is literally destroying everything in its path with tiles and huge pieces of masonry crashing to the ground."It is leaving the upper floors nothing but a burnt out shell while the lower floors are bound to be uninhabitable. "The firefighters are doing an extraordinary job trying to contain it, but I don't even they were prepared for how quickly and ferociously this blaze would take hold.
"It looked like a small fire to begin with, but soon took hold spreading across all the upper floors of the flats in City Wall Avenue.
"Fire appeared to spread upwards and westwards with the wind from the first floor.
"Within an hour it had reached the vaulted roof with thick grey smoke billowing out fom between the tiles.
"Firefighters actually broke a hole in the wall to enter the smoke-filled building.
"A bloke who lives in the block told me he didn't think there was anyone inside, but there are a lot of very worried people standing in the road."
Crews have been using breathing apparatus, three main jets, two hose reel jets and a 135 ladder to tackle the blaze.
Four fogspikes, which pump a fine spray into the building, are being used to create firebreaks to help prevent the lateral spread of the fire.