Fire crews have been tackling a blaze at a former Odeon cinema.The fire in Crouch Street, Colchester, broke out at 01:46 BST and 70 firefighters with ten appliances were involved in putting it out.Residents were told to keep windows and doors closed due to the amount of smoke the blaze generated.Incident commander Terry Povey said: “Our crews have worked extremely hard throughout the night to tackle the fire.””As part of our efforts it was essential that we carried out a search for anyone inside as it is known that homeless people sometimes visit the building,” he added.”I can confirm that following a search no-one was found to be inside.”According to the commander some rough sleepers were moved on by the police earlier in the evening prior to the fire.
The fire has been extinguished and structural engineers have been working to make the building safe.Power to the surrounding area was turned off to enable work to be carried out, the fire service said.
“There’s balconies with no guard rails, there’s holes in the floors, so it was a very hazardous environment for our firefighters,” said commander Povey. “It would have been so easy for one of our firefighters to fall down a hole, fall off a balcony.”
He added an investigation into the cause of the fire would be undertaken in due course. “We’ve identified the place of origin but there’s so much damage in there it’s difficult to ascertain what the cause was,” he said.
Colchester borough councillor Darius Laws said the building’s owner had recently been given planning permission to convert the internal structure into flats and shops. “Hopefully the fire won’t set this regeneration back. It’s been an eyesore for a while,” said Mr Laws.
Source: BBC Essex