Fakenham Church affected by major fire

fakenham fire snorkel 386A major fire in Fakenham town centre which gutted several shops, flats and cars caused Sunday worship in the parish church to be abandoned, and left the church interior damaged by smoke. Tony Rothe reports. 

The fire broke out earlier today, Sunday May 25, just as the main morning service began at 10.30am in the Parish Church. The congregation was evacuated as “The Original Factory Shop” next to the church in Upper Market Place caught fire.
Over 100 firefighters were in involved in fighting this major incident and fought bravely to save the 14th Century Church which was very near the burning buildings. At times the fire was extremely fierce and many feared that the church was going to burn down. As the day progressed, it became clear that the only damage to the church was caused by smoke, and that the skill of the fire fighters saved the building.
 fakenham fire 376As members of the congregation rushed for in safety into St Peter's Garden, others began to strip the church of oil paintings, silver, vestments and anything valuable. The Church Parish Office was used to help numerous people who wanted to find loved ones, or in one case accommodation.
Sadly a car belong to members of the church was totally burnt out and numerous shops were either totally gutted or damaged. The flood lighting to the church has been totally ruined and it will take some time to make the area safe. The church premises will be inspected for safety by the church insurers next week.
By 6.pm the major fire-fighting had ceased but, at the time of writing, work is expected to continue throughout the night. The major task will then be the demolition of the worst affected buildings, and making the others safe.
Revd Adrian Bell, Rector of Fakenham said “I must confess to being somewhat shaken and smoky! But my main concern was for the safety of people. Buildings can be replaced, but not lives. During the day my wife Marian and other locals worked with the Police to keep people safe along the Church Lanes. Many people were coughing and had inhaled smoke, but everyone worked so well together and the organisation of the response to this major fire was extremely professional. The Fire Service, the Police, Ambulance, Paramedics, Gas and Electricity services all worked well together.
He continued “As the fire began I recited the Lord’s Prayer and 23rd Psalm before leaving the building to the mercy of the elements. I feared that my 13 years work restoring the building would soon be lost in flames! My thoughts are now with those who have lost homes and also jobs.”  
fakenham fire port 395The last time there was a major fire in the town was believed to be in the Tudor times, when the Church was saved, just as this time.
Next Sunday, June 1, the Rector invites everyone to join him at the 10.30am Service when prayers of thanksgiving will be said to thank God that there was no loss of life or serious injury during  this major fire, and that the Church building was saved.

All photos are courtesy of James B K Bell. 

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