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Unsafe wiring in Chippenham gets fire blame
A fire that broke out in a boarded-up house in London Road, Chippenham, is suspected to have been caused by faulty electrics.
The blaze, opposite the Pack Horse Pub last Wednesday, is not being investigated as arson.
The house had lain empty for about eight months, after being declared unsafe by Wiltshire Council and boarded up.
The owners, believed to be retired teachers, were not allowed to return.
Andrew Morley, an acting detective sergeant at Melksham CID, said the fire did not appear to have been suspicious.
He said: “There is nothing to suggest a deliberate act. The fire probably happened due to the unsafe nature of the property and the condemned wiring.”
Crime scene investigators have not been able to get into the house, because of its dangerous structure.
The building’s state and a great quantity of items hoarded inside caused problems for firefighters. It took an aerial appliance and water carrier tank, four main jets and a hose reel, to bring the blaze under control.
A Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said: “It was very well alight when we got there. One of the main reasons the fire was so significant was that the owner was a hoarder.
“There was so much there to burn, it made it a tricky one to handle. We could only fight it from the outside.”
She said firefighters had to wait for part of the building to collapse before they could tackle the next emerging section.
Smoke continued to billow from the building for 26 hours, rising through broken panes and the few remaining rafters until about 1am on Friday.
Charred rubble was then covered by a blanket of snow.
The fire service said it had been in danger of opening Chippenham’s first ice rink when water from pumps turned to ice in sub-zero temperatures.
Scott Austin raised the alarm at 10.50pm on Wednesday, when he passed by on his way to the Best One shop, two doors away.
Mr Austin, of Cricketts Lane, said: “I was just nipping out for some tobacco and I saw smoke coming out of the window and the window looked orange, so I dialled 999.
“I went and told the house next door and the little girl came out and started crying straight away. It was pretty nuts.”
Crowds gathered in the pub car park to watch, while a cable sparked across the side of the house. Nearby buildings were without electricity until 4am.
Neighbour Brigitte Windram’s garden has forysthia bushes five feet from the fire-hit house, but she knew nothing of the drama until police knocked at her door.
She said: “It was 11 o’clock and I was just reading a book. It was the police. They said we might have to be evacuated. I looked out the back and it was totally ablaze.
“I felt safe knowing the firemen were there. They were just amazing. Without them, we could all have been up in flames.”
London Road remained closed until 10.30am on Friday.