Team 'threw themselves' at blaze and averted a disaster
PART-time firefighters from St Ives averted a potential disaster by "throwing themselves" at the fire that threatened to sweep through Wharf Road and Fore Street last week, fire chiefs have said.
More than 60 firefighters from across west Cornwall tackled the blaze at Court Arcade on St Ives' seafront on Thursday.
The fire, which started at around 7.30pm, is thought to have been caused by rainwater getting into the arcade's shared fusebox.
Firefighters were on the scene until 1pm the next day.
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But it was the actions of 14 local firefighters, who tackled the blaze on their own for the first 20 minutes, that commanders say saved the day.
The two-storey arcade on St Ives' sea-front is home to food store Waffleicious, The Bead Shop and The Jolly Boat clothes store on the ground floor and The Vintage Store and Coffee Shop upstairs.
Businesses nearby called 999 after smelling smoke.
Two fire engines from St Ives were immediately sent to the scene.
Group Commander David Carlisle from the fire service said: "When they arrived they knew they had a job on.
"The fire crew from St Ives, in the first 20 minutes, prior to the arrival of any other fire officers, held it in check and stopped it spreading.
"What they did in the first 20 minutes set the tone for the whole response.
"Had they not we would be looking at a significant fire with lots more damage than the fire caused.
"They threw themselves at the fire, fighting it with CO2 dry powder extinguishers and held it in check.
"They knew they could not put water on it so they got every available extinguisher and hit it hard with those.
"At the same time they sent firefighters upstairs and started to rip floor-boards up to stop it spreading horizontally. It got very physical. Bits of fire that they could not stop they actually got saws and axes and cut away sections of floor and ceiling and dragged them outside."
He said: "Lots of buildings in Fore Street, which backs onto Wharf Road, had smoke pouring out. Our big concern was that this was going to spread.
"The actions of the retained firefighters from St Ives, who are all local lads, meant that when the other fire engines arrived they were dealing with a localised fire.
"They did a marvellous job."
At its height the fire service had seven fire engines, four support vehicles and a Red Cross support vehicle on scene.
The initial fire was extinguished but then the live electrical wires kept re-igniting it.
When Western Power dug up the road to turn off the supply a gas leak then led to an evacuation of the area for a short time.
Grant Curnow, manager of Waffleicious, said his business wouldn't reopen before Christmas.
He said: "It's awful, 100 per cent devastation. Virtually everything in there has been water damaged or smoke damaged, everything stinks.
"But the fire service did an amazing job.
"It was lucky it happened when it did and there were people about. If it had been 3am I don't think anyone would have noticed for an hour and then I don't know what would have happened."