Staff swift to evacuate shoppers after Gillingham Co-operative fire
SHOPPERS were evacuated as a devastating fire took hold at the Co-operative store in Gillingham on Saturday.
It took 42 firefighters and seven fire engines to contain the blaze that started at around 5.45pm at the shop on High Street.
It is believed the blaze started with an electrical fire in a freezer.
The fire was put out by 7.40pm but crews continued to dampen down hotspots for several more hours. No one was hurt, but the store has sustained extensive smoke and structural damage and could be closed for months.
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A spokesperson for the Co-operative Food said: "Staff were quick to react and followed the fire safety procedure to evacuate the store before the fire brigade attended.
"The store has been seriously damaged and will remain closed until further notice while substantial repairs are carried out.
"We apologise to customers for the inconvenience this may cause over coming months."
Staff member Holly Hunt said: "It really was heartbreaking to see my work place burn like it did, but I'm just glad everyone got out as quickly and safely as we all did. It is so scary to think that things could have ended a lot worse."
Shopper Ryan Samuels, 27, of Gillingham, said: "I was just in the shop with a mate getting some coffee. We were just about to pay when we were told to get out. We turned round and realised why when we saw flames by the fridges at the back of the shop. We all got out and stood outside. I filmed some of the fire on my phone – loads of people were stood around watching it go up."
A spokesperson from Dorset Fire and Rescue said the fire had escalated in a matter of minutes. Firefighters will be outside the shop between 11am and 3pm tomorrow and from 10am to 2pm on Saturday to raise public awareness of how to react if they are confronted by a fire.
GILLINGHAM CO-OP FIRE - VIDEO