A supermarket was burnt to the ground in a dramatic fire that could be seen from ten miles away as hundreds of local residents watched in horror.
Eight fire crews battled to save the Budgens store as it was engulfed by flames in Holt, a Georgian town Norfolk.
A thick pall of black smoke was sent billowing into the air yesterday evening before the whole store rapidly caught alight at around 9.15pm.
Nobody was injured and the cause of the fire at the supermarket owned by the family of North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker is not yet known.
A Budgens supermarket in Holt, Norfolk, was burnt to the ground in a dramatic fire that could be seen from ten miles away yesterday
Fish and chip shop owner Ceyhan Gokmen, said: ‘Some customers came in and said Budgens was on fire.
‘I looked out of the window and could see the flames right over the top of the buildings. It was totally shocking. I couldn’t believe my eyes.’
Judith Follows, 72, added: ‘It started at one end of the building and just so quickly engulfed it. It swept from one end to the other. It was pretty scary.
‘It’s just devastating for Holt. It is the only supermarket and the Post Office is in there as well.
‘There are people who cannot travel who really rely on it. This is a big blow for the town.’
The store caught light at around 9.15pm and local residents watched in horror as plumes of black smoke billowed into the sky
Dolly Morley, who lives in the town centre, said: ‘I could smell smoke and looked out of my bedroom window and could not believe it. I phoned 999.
‘It was already well alight with smoke and there was debris blown across the high street.
‘It was a totally surreal sight and it spread so quickly.’
Fire crews used a hydraulic high platform ladder to try and dampen the flames from above.
The store had closed at 6pm, two hours earlier than normal, due to its shortened opening times during the coronavirus crisis.
Local residents watch as flames engulf the roof of the building and emergency services arrive to the scene
Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service urged local residents to keep windows and doors closed and remain clear of the area as the fire took hold
North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker said in a Facebook post: ‘I am horrified to see the scenes of devastation in Holt tonight and understandably am struggling to come to terms with what we are all witnessing.
‘Firstly no one is hurt and everyone is safe. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the emergency services, who ensured there were no injuries and prevented the fire spreading to neighbouring buildings.’
Mr Baker said he would be doing everything possible to help the staff and owners of the store.
He said: ‘Over the pandemic the staff have been phenomenal supporting the community. Your dedication has been amazing and my heart is with you all.
The building collapses as the fire sweeps through the supermarket, which is also the location of the town’s post office
‘The town and the community is remarkable. Together we will all pull through this. Whatever it takes working with all the stakeholders.
‘Holt is where I grew up, where I’ve spent the majority of my life and all my thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this devastating news.
‘As a matter or urgency, I will be working with North Norfolk District Council to establish what support is needed and to do everything I can to ensure it’s provided.’
Former North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb commented: ‘That is extraordinary and horrifying. I’m flabbergasted that a building can be destroyed so quickly given modern safety standards.’
Sarah Bütikofer, the leader of North Norfolk District Council, described the fire as ‘devastating’.
A man looks on at the side of the building as flames burst out the roof of the supermarket
She said: ‘The Council stands ready to help in whatever way we can, and meetings will start later today.
‘My heart goes out to staff and families of all those who work there.’
The Budgens store in Holt has been owned since 2007 by the family of North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker who also own the Bakers and Larners store in the town
Connor Rouse who works at Budgens posted a Facebook message today, saying: ‘I honestly can’t put into words how I feel this morning, it doesn’t seem like it can be real that the place I have worked in for nearly 3 years with some of the most wonderful colleagues has burned down to the ground.
‘It all feels a little surreal, I can honestly say that the last two and half years working with them has been an absolute pleasure and it’s now more than ever that my heart goes out to them.
Judith Follows, 72, says: ‘It started at one end of the building and just so quickly engulfed it. It swept from one end to the other. It was pretty scary’
‘A massive part of the community as well a key service for the area of Holt for a great many years has disappeared within just one night.’
Fellow store worker Tony Cooney said he heard a smoke alarm at about 9pm, but ‘thought it was a car alarm’.
He said he then noticed smoke, went to fetch his mobile phone, and by the time he returned ‘the fire had spread rapidly’.
He said: ‘It’s so sad, in the year Bakers and Larners is celebrating 250 years. A lot of elderly people rely on Budgens for deliveries.’
Rodney Smith, town mayor, said: ‘Holt Town Council is shocked and saddened by the terrible news regarding the devastating fire at Budgens, Holt. We thank the emergency services for their swift response.
North Norfolk MP Duncan Baker whose family owns the store said: ‘I am horrified to see the scenes of devastation in Holt tonight and understandably am struggling to come to terms with what we are all witnessing.
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with CT Baker, the Budgens staff and everybody affected by the fire.
‘This devastating fire couldn’t have happened at a worse time for the town as the recovery from Covid-19 was just starting and a great deal of effort was taking place to promote that Holt is Open, and there were the first signs of optimism.
‘The Budgens Team were providing much needed help and support through food deliveries to the vulnerable and those who are shielding in the town and surrounding communities. Budgens hosted the only post office in the town.
‘Holt Town Council will be working with all partners to quickly put measures in place to provide support to the town and those most affected in the community.
A spokesperson for Norfolk Fire and Rescue service said: ‘Fire crews will be remaining on scene for the majority of the day.
‘The structure is extremely unstable. We would urge members of the public to avoid the area. There are small pockets of inaccessible fire we are working to extinguish. We thank the people of Holt for their patience.’