Investigation launched into fire at retirement complex

Fire investigators will examine how a blaze which ripped through a retirement complex was able to spread so rapidly.

Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) say the blaze at the Beechmere residential complex in Crewe is not thought to have been started deliberately, but an investigation has been launched into how it started and was able to take hold.

Fire bosses say the immediate evacuation of about 150 residents after the fire broke out, shortly after 4.30pm on Thursday, “undoubtedly saved lives”.

Crews have been working through the weekend to damp down the site, where much of the building collapsed, and will continue the work on Monday.

CFRS head of protection Lee Shears said: “It is clearly still very early days in our investigation, but what we do know is that the fire started in the roof area and spread rapidly. It appears, at this stage, to not have been a deliberate act.

“Establishing the cause is our first priority and I’m confident that we will conclude this soon – what will take more time is understanding how the fire took hold in the way that it did.

“Fortunately, there is still a section of the building that remains intact, and that could be crucial in helping us to figure out what went wrong here.

“From speaking to the incident commander first at the scene, it’s clear that the fire wasn’t behaving in the way that we would expect, and I must praise his swift and decisive actions in ordering the immediate evacuation of residents. His decision undoubtedly saved lives.”

Assistant chief fire officer Gus O’Rourke said the incident commander was able to override a “stay put” policy at the premises, which would have required residents to remain in their apartments and be evacuated on a phased basis.

He said: “I must also praise the staff at Beechmere and neighbouring residents. They were immense in supporting the evacuation process that evening and should be truly proud of themselves.

“The support from residents and the wider community of Crewe continues to be an inspiration to us all, and I can’t thank them enough for their generosity, patience and understanding during this incident.”

Residents from neighbouring properties were also evacuated but are expected to be allowed to return home soon.

A fire service spokesman said: “The thoughts of everyone at Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service are with those who lost everything they have in the fire at Beechmere.

“Despite our very best efforts, we regret that we were unable to bring the fire under control soon enough to save your treasured memories and possessions, and we extend our deepest sympathies to you.”

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