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'It was horrendous' - lucky escape for garden centre after huge blaze

PUBLISHED: 13:40 14 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:12 14 October 2019

A scene from the aftermath of the fire at Randells Garden Machinery in Toftwod, Dereham. Picture: Stuart Anderson

A scene from the aftermath of the fire at Randells Garden Machinery in Toftwod, Dereham. Picture: Stuart Anderson

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A number of businesses are counting the cost after a devastating fire left a building complex gutted and beyond repair.

A scene from the aftermath of the fire at Randells Garden Machinery in Toftwod, Dereham. Picture: Stuart AndersonA scene from the aftermath of the fire at Randells Garden Machinery in Toftwod, Dereham. Picture: Stuart Anderson

The blaze, at Randells Garden Machinery off Shipdham Road in Toftwood, Dereham, broke out on Friday afternoon.

The machinery firm was the building's main occupier, but the complex was also home to Kontorted Iron decorative ironwork makers, a farm shop as well as glasshouses used by Nurtured in Norfolk.

One employee from Randells who was there when the fire broke out suffered burns and was taken to Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital for treatment. He is now believed to be recovering at home.

Allan Read, owner of Toftwood Garden Centre which is next door to Randells, said he was shocked by the intensity of blaze.

A scene from the aftermath of the fire at Randells Garden Machinery in Toftwod, Dereham. Picture: Stuart AndersonA scene from the aftermath of the fire at Randells Garden Machinery in Toftwod, Dereham. Picture: Stuart Anderson

He said: "When I came down the whole thing was alight.

"It was horrendous. I don't think I've ever seen such black, horrible smoke."

Mr Read said the emergency services were using a drone to identify hotspots through the smoke so they knew where to direct their hoses.

He said the garden centre, which is open as usual, was fortunate to escape also being burned.

A scene from the aftermath of the fire at Randells Garden Machinery in Toftwod, Dereham. Picture: Stuart AndersonA scene from the aftermath of the fire at Randells Garden Machinery in Toftwod, Dereham. Picture: Stuart Anderson

READ MORE: Dereham business counting the costs of devastating blaze

Mr Read said: "We were very, very lucky.

"I had visions of the fire damaging the glasshouse at the end but we got away very light."

Firefighters managed to extinguish the fire by the early hours of Saturday, but were called back to the scene on Sunday morning after the blaze flared up again.

Neighbours were told to keep their windows shut, and some reported hearing the sound of explosions, which as believed to be aerosol canisters bursting.

Daisy Smith, who lives on Hillcrest Avenue, was startled when she first saw the huge plumes of smoke.

"I was just sitting at home and I looked up to see these massive clouds of black smoke," said Miss Smith. "I really freaked out at first and called my family telling them to look outside.

Some of those who worked at the complex were on the site on Monday to start the clean-up effort.

A Norfolk Fire and Rescue spokesman said investigations into the cause of the blaze were ongoing.

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