UCKFIELD High Street will be closed to traffic until midday today (Monday September 3) after a fire raged through roofs causing ‘substantial damage’ to old buildings.
East Sussex Fire and Rescue spokesman, Firefighter Ian Ritchie said the fire is believed to have started in bins outside the buildings, which include the British Heart Foundation and Sense charity shops, Halifax Building Society, Swindells and Gentry and Natural Nails. Offices above the shops including local firm The Marketing Eye were also affected.
He described how teams had initially been called to a bin fire in Olives Yard late on Sunday evening but when they arrived they found it has spread to the roofs of neighbouring shops and offices.
Because the roofs collapsed, firecrews could not get into the buildings and people were evacuated from flats next door as a precaution.
Fortunately, he explained, the fire was brought under control using an aerial platform and high-pressure jet hoses. No-one was injured.
At its height the blaze was being fought by more than 40 firefighters from Uckfield, Heathfield, Crowborough and Barcombe.
They worked throughout the night and will remain on the scene for the rest of the day making sure the fire does not flare up again.
The cause of the fire is being investigated but Ian Ritchie stressed how important it is for firms to make sure their rubbish is stored safely, not too close to buildings.
The fire and subsequent road closures was highlighted in news bulletins on BBC Radio where presenters advised people to avoid the High Street from every direction and use the A22 by-pass instead.
Anyone with information about how the fire may have started is asked to contact Sussex Police on 101 quoting Operation Fullstop or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.