#InThePress: 8 March 2011 – Ipswich Star
There were fears last night that an historic Ipswich town centre church hit by a devastating fire might collapse.
The blaze at St Michael’s Church in Upper Orwell Street was reported at just before 9.50pm and due to the severity of the flames ten fire crews were soon on the scene.
A safety cordon was put in place around the building as the roof was consumed by fire and neighbouring properties were evacuated. At its height, the blaze was being fought by 70 firefighters.
The worst of the flames were out by 11.30pm but smoke continued to billow through the church windows well into the night.
Upper Orwell Street is near the Regent Theatre, which hosted an evening showing of Spamalot last night. The audience came out of the show shortly before 10pm to be greeted by the dramatic scene but their journey home was not hampered by the firefighting operation.
Staff from fast food shops including Fresh Kebabs, in Upper Orwell Street, were ordered to close the shop by the police as part of the safety cordon and evacuation process.
Police closed Upper Orwell Street from its Tacket Street junction to where it joins St Helen’s Street. Fire crews from Princes Street and Colchester Road stations in Ipswich, Woodbridge, Holbrook, Felixstowe, Needham Market, Colchester and Hadleigh Fire Stations were all sent to the scene. A turntable unit, aerial ladder platform and a command support vehicle were also involved.
Mark Sanderson, assistant chief fire officer, said the fire quickly spread throughout the entire structure. “Parts of the roof have been collapsing and there was debris coming off the roof including tiles which fell inside the building,” he said.
The church is a listed building and was built in the 1880s but has stood empty for more than a decade.
It was bought last year by a Muslim charity which had plans to turn it into a community centre.
Last night the head of JIMAS Ipswich was at the scene but was unavailable for comment.