Sudbury still recovering from devastating fire one year on

The fire in Market Hill, Sudbury, September 6, 2015. ANL-151021-113858001
The fire in Market Hill, Sudbury, September 6, 2015. ANL-151021-113858001

Today marks the one year anniversary of the devastating fire which ripped through homes and businesses in Sudbury.

At the time 20 people were made homeless, some of these families and individuals losing everything in the fire, while businesses have been forced to relocate and are still dealing with the financial consequences.

Sudbury and Long Melford firefighters recognised for their efforts in saving equipment and stock of Cobblers and Keys locksmiths during the major fire in Sudbury town centre in September 2015. Pictured; (from left) Becky Howard, Chris Smith, Former Sudbury mayor Jack Owen, Simon Evans and John Bromley. ANL-160826-133849001

Sudbury and Long Melford firefighters recognised for their efforts in saving equipment and stock of Cobblers and Keys locksmiths during the major fire in Sudbury town centre in September 2015. Pictured; (from left) Becky Howard, Chris Smith, Former Sudbury mayor Jack Owen, Simon Evans and John Bromley. ANL-160826-133849001

Despite this, there is a sense of pride, both in the heroic efforts of the passers-by who spotted the fire and helped evacuate the properties and the firefighters who helped save the life of Christina Deke and ensure the fire did not spread further.

The blaze in Market Hill on the junction with Friars Street started in Celebrities Nails. It was reported at 6.17pm on Sunday, September 6, after Carly Ashdown spotted that the windows in the nail bar looked cloudy.

Walking back to check with her boyfriend Ben Barnbrook, the pair realised there was a fire inside. They rang the fire brigade before setting about shouting to residents in the flats and pushing doorbells to alert people.

Mr Barnbrooke, Paul Pengelly, Rob Mann, Jim Edgson and four other men at the scene then used a ladder found nearby to climb up to neighbouring properties and help people get out.

Fifteen minutes later a crew from Long Melford was first on the scene, with firefighter Pat Ince being described as the “hero of the hour” for his role in rescuing 48-year-old Christina Deke from her second floor home.

On Friday, Long Melford’s firefighters and their colleagues at Sudbury station were recognised for their efforts by Simon Evans, the owner of Cobblers and Keys Locksmiths which was partially destroyed by the fire and has since been relocated in the Borehamgate Precinct, Sudbury.

Mr Evans handed the crews commemorative plaques which will be hung up at the stations.

John Bromley, watch commander at Sudbury fire station, said: “It’s nice for any business to recognise the hard work the lads and lasses did on the day, it’s greatly appreciated.

“There was a lot of hard work that went into saving what they did. Unfortunately not everything could be saved, but it was a very serious fire. It’s really nice to see the businesses affected reopened or relocated.”

Becky Howard, who was part of the crew from Long Melford that was first on the scene, said: “It’s the biggest fire I’ve seen. When we got there it wasn’t much but it escalated and it became very serious in minutes.

“As we were coming it was just a building fire. Then persons were reported and our mind-set changed. We saw the lady hanging out of her window and we needed to get her out.”

Simon Evans gave the plaques for the efforts of the firemen and women that night in helping to stop the fire and save thousands of pounds worth of equipment.

Mr Evans said business had been picking up month on month since relocating at the beginning of the year, but was still short of what it was previously.

Thanking the firefighters, Mr Evans explained that he had been able to salvage around £100,000 worth of equipment and stock on the night.

“Even though there was smoke and water damage it was repairable, fire damage would not have been,” he said.

Sharing his experiences of that night Mr Evans said: “Up until 1am I thought we had got away with it, then they started pumping water through the roof and it was pouring through our front door, that’s when it hit home.

“Without saving our equipment we would have been starting completely from scratch.

“Having insurance helps but doesn’t take away the stress we have had to go through.

“We’ve spent many weeks filling out forms, filling costs of things that have been lost. We lost £20,000 worth of stock on the top two floors.

“I try to look ahead, the shop has had lots of support from customers. We are now moving forward with lots of things in the pipeline.”

Other stores such as Oxfam’s charity shop and Javelin, a fashion retailer, have reopened or moved locations, but even those not forced to close have suffered the effects of the blaze.

Trade in Friars Street is still suffering from the closure and later partial closure of the road while the 19th Century Goldsmith’s mansion which housed Celebrities Nails and Oxfam is rebuilt.

Among the heroes were the hundreds of people who donated money, clothes and other necessities in the immediate aftermath, or set up fundraising activities. Sudbury Fire Trust was set up to distribute the £15,000 raised to help affected business and residents.

Most of this money has now been handed out and when speaking about the efforts of the local population David Holland, one the trustees, said: “You can’t put a value on such things. People were in difficult circumstances but they felt cared for.

“The people of Sudbury were helping them and wanting to support them.”

Local social media page Sudbury, Suffolk, has proposed the fire crews who saved Mrs Deke’s life should be nominated for a Pride of Britain award. You can nominate by visiting www.prideofbritain.com/nominate.