Published: 09:42, 23 August 2017
A dog died in a blaze which ripped through a former sports club in Northfleet, it's been revealed.
Neighbours looked on in shock last night as the fire sent huge black plumes of smoke around the area - which were even visible at Bluewater.
Around 100 residents were evacuated to the nearby Cygnets Leisure Centre, as around 35 firefighters tackled the Nelson Road incident at its height from around 6.30pm.
All have now returned home, and the cause of the fire is being investigated.
Now it's been revealed a nine-month-old British bulldog died after being overcome by smoke.
Owner Kerry Foulger had been at work and got back at 7.30pm last night.
The dog, called Lady, had been indoors with a window open and succumbed to the smoke. Visibly upset by Lady's death, Kerry said of owning a British bulldog: " I had always wanted one, I even saved up to get one and nine months later she's gone."
Kerry praised the rescuers: "The firefighters were very good, they were here until early this morning. You can't fault them, they were absolutely brilliant."
But she revealed she had warned there might be problems at the site.
She added: "You can always hear children in there clanging and banging.
"We have sat in the garden many times and said it's going to burn to the ground and become a housing estate. It was a disaster waiting to happen."
Kerry's daughter Abbi said she wondered if people were living at the site, as every night they would see a spotlight in the building, and the dog would go mad.
She added: "It was gutted years ago, there was nothing left to take."
Another neighbour, who didn't want to be named, was evacuated at about 7pm.
He lives in Snelling Avenue, close to the front gate into the centre.
He said: "It went up so quickly it was unbelievable. I thought it was another false alarm because they've had a couple here the last few weeks.
"The fire was going right up to the backs of people's gardens and there was so much smoke.
"It was lucky because the gateway is normally filled up with parked cars and if it had been last night it would've been 10 times worse because the firemen wouldn't have got in there."
Sharon Cooter was evacuated with her husband Steve around 7pm from their Snelling Avenue home, and didn't get back until this morning.
She said: "They had to bring the hoses through the back gardens here because initially the gates were locked.
"It was an accident waiting to happen" - Sharon Cooter
"It took hold so quickly there was nothing they could do.
"We thought someone was having a bonfire and we went out and had a look and by the time we were out it was like an inferno.
"There were children in there yesterday afternoon and I have reported it to the police and the council before. You can often hear them in there vandalising it.
"It was an accident waiting to happen."
Police say the fire is being treated as suspicious.
Anyone who witnessed the fire or has information about how it started is asked to call police on 01474 366149 quoting reference number 22-1214, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.
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