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Norfolk church has fire escape

30 May 2014

Matthew Usher

Close call: a view of the aftermath of the fire in Fakenham, from the tower of St Peter and St Paul

Close call: a view of the aftermath of the fire in Fakenham, from the tower of St Peter and St Paul

WORSHIPPERS formed a human chain to rescue precious artefacts from Fakenham Parish Church, in Norfolk, last Sunday, after flames from a burning shop next door threatened to engulf the building.

The fire broke out during a morning service at St Peter and St Paul, in the town's market square, eventually gutting the factory outlet where it started, two other business premises, and seven homes.

When the fire began, the Rector, the Revd Adrian Bell, said that he felt that his 13 years' work on restoring the building would soon all be in flames. "At times, the fire was extremely fierce, and looked as if the church was going to be burnt down. Thankfully through the immense skill of the fire fighters, only smoke damage can be seen in the church," he said.

He praised the firefighters, who continuously sprayed water on to the church roof to stop sparks igniting the building.

A car owned by one of the congregation, however, and the church's floodlights, were destroyed. The building, which dates from the 14th century, was due to be inspected this week for safety by its insurers.

"As some of the congregation rushed for safety into St Peter's Garden, others began to strip the church of oil paintings, silver, vestments, and anything valuable," Mr Bell said. "My main concern was for the safety of people. Buildings can be replaced, but not lives."

The last time there was a large fire in the town was in Tudor times, when the church was saved. In 1940, it was nearly destroyed by a stray Luftwaffe bomb.

More than 100 firefighters attended the blaze, which took until early evening to bring under control. Two people were rescued from flats above the burning properties, but no one was taken to hospital.

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