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Huge fire at Gravesend DIY store

Sorry, this video asset has been removed.

Footage of the Gravesend
fire from Emma Shea

Police investigating an arson attack on a DIY store last night
think the culprit might have been injured.

Detectives believe the offender was hurt while starting a
huge blaze that gutted the Gravesend shop.

Around 50 firefighters spent eight hours tackling the fire
- and people living nearby had to be evacuated.

Flames erupt from DIY store Start to Finish in Gravesend
Flames erupt from DIY store Start to Finish in Gravesend

It has emerged the Start to Finish store, in Wrotham Road, is
believed to have been a fire victim just months ago.

Residents claimed the store had been damaged in a suspicious
blaze on October 26 last year.

The owners had only just managed to turn the shop around -
and were about to re-open on Monday, it has been claimed.

The fire is being treated as suspicious and detectives are
working with Kent Fire and Rescue Service to establish the
cause.

Around 60 people had to be moved out of nearby homes, including
flats above the store, when fire broke out at about 8.30pm.

No one was injured, but the two-storey building has been badly
damaged and the roof has caved in.

DI Geoff Payne, from Kent Police, said: "We believe that the
offender may have suffered injuries as a result of starting the
fire and are keen to speak to anyone who might have seen anything,
or anyone, suspicious or who knows of anyone with unexplained
injuries which could have been caused as a result of this
incident.

"Even a small detail or piece of information can make a real
difference to our investigation. We are currently treating the
incident as arson and enquiries are ongoing."

Witnesses reported gas cylinders exploding as flames erupted and
thick smoke billowed across the road.

Owner of the Desi Sweet Centre, two doors away from the blaze,
Ranjit Singh, told of a 'large bang' before the fire started.

He added: "The flames were really high and I was really worried
about my shop."

Fire crews at the scene of the Gravesend blaze
Fire crews at the scene of the Gravesend blaze

Fire crews at the scene
of the Gravesend blaze. Picture: Emma Shea

Guru Ponnushany, 43, who owns nearby East West Food and Wine,
said: "I was worried because of the bang and then I saw glass
flying - then there were big flames."

Heather Wilson, 23, who lives in Wrotham Court flats directly
opposite, was told to leave her home with her sleeping baby
daughter Ava as the fire took hold.She said: "At first they
got the fire under control but then there was another bang and the
whole place caught alight.

"They then got us to leave our flats. The police told me debris
fell on one of the window ledges and caught alight so they were
having to spray that as well."

Residents were evacuated to a temporary shelter at the Bat and
Ball Cricket Ground pavilion before being allowed to return to
their homes by 4am.

A Gravesham council spokesman said: "Officers commended the
community spirit and support from the evacuees, the local community
and the additional support from the Red Cross Fire Response team.
"

Firefighters spent eight hours putting out the flames and
Wrotham Road wasclosed from Zion Place to Trafalgar
Road.

Police urged people to avoid the area if possible. Cars
parked nearby were covered in ash today.

DIY store Start to Finish was gutted by fire
DIY store Start to Finish was gutted by fire

DIY store Start to Finish
was gutted by fire

Incident commander Stuart Skilton, from Kent Fire and Rescue
Service, said: "The fire was severe and had developed rapidly
due to the combustible stock in the shop.

"Firefighters have been working hard, using BA equipment and a
height vehicle to get the fire under control."

Anyone with any information is asked to phone Kent Police on101, quoting reference 23-1418, or Kent Crimestoppers, anonymously,on 0800 555 111.

Were you affected by the fire or do you have pictures? Phonethe newsdesk on 01634 227834 or email multimediadesk@thekmgroup.co.uk.

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