A businessman has spoken of the ‘chaos’ as part of his 24-year-old Horsham dry cleaners was destroyed during an ‘intense’ blaze.
Emergency services were called to Rapide Dry Clean in the Bishopric just after 6.30pm on Thursday (January 16) to find people ‘panicking’.
Two crews from West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service had initially responded to reports of smoke issuing from the roof of Shelley House.
Proprietor Tim King, 48, was in a nearby pub when a friend’s partner spotted plumes of smoke outside.
Mr King explained: “She came in and said ‘could your shop be on fire?’ and that was it - I ran and ran and ran.”
He arrived on the scene with friend Mark Tuesley, 49, to find an outbuilding used as a laundry room on fire.
The pair quickly isolated the gas before assisting with the evacuation of residents from Shelley House.
“It was chaos, I’m just relieved no-one was hurt,” added the proprietor.
Mark Tuesley, 49, said: “All we were concerned about was getting the gas off and then the roof started caving in. It was seriously going when I got here.”
Jenny Flower, who lives in neighbouring Bishopric Court, spotted the flames after returning from work and filmed it footage available http://www.wscountytimes.co.uk/news/local/video-dramatic-footage-of-horsham-fire-caught-by-county-times-reader-1-5814913.
She told the County Times: “I was in our back bedroom when I started to hear what sounded like fireworks. At first I thought nothing of it, but then realised that it sounded more like gun shots than fireworks. At this point I went to the window and looked out and saw the fire, at which point I phoned the fire brigade.”
Crew commander Neil Mason, of West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said the building was ‘well alight’ upon arrival.
He said: “We had some people that were panicking on the second floor and hanging from the windows.”
Firefighters attempted to reach the people using a ladder but no one was in danger.
He said the blaze, which had started in an outbuilding used as a laundry room, was ‘intense’.
A propane gas cylinder had to be removed.
Part of the Bishopric was closed for more than two hours.
Around 80 per cent of the outbuilding was destroyed, including a number of washing and drying machines.
No-one was injured.
An initial fire investigation ruled the incident as suspicious. Sussex Police scenes of crime officers attended the store on Friday (January 17). However, following investigations, police are no longer treating the cause of this fire as suspicious, a spokesperson for the force confirmed this week.
The store is still open for business.