MORE than 60 firefighters battled a top floor blaze in a block of flats in Bournemouth town centre today.
Many occupants of the St Peter’s Gate block, in St Peter’s Road next to the church, were alerted to the danger at around 9am by the smell of smoke, while others were roused by fire crews banging on their doors.
After the initial call at 8.45pm, the emergency services attended the scene in force, including 11 fire engines from across the area, three support vehicles, an aerial ladder platform and a support team from the Red Cross.
With the occupants evacuated, the crews used three main line hose jets and breathing apparatus to extinguish the blaze, which was restricted to the flat where it started.
Dorset Fire and Rescue monitoring officer Simon Dennett, Weymouth Station Commander, said: “The fire started in a residential flat and it stayed in the flat of origin.
“Some evacuation was already in progress when we arrived. We searched the rest of the building and assisted in the operation.
“We don't believe there have been any injuries.”
The fire took place in a flat on the fifth floor of the block, which houses many foreign students and young workers.
Police closed off St Peter’s Road and Horseshoe Common, leading to minor diversions for Yellow Buses services heading to the railway station and Christchurch.
By 9.40am the fire was extinguished, but the cordon remained in place while crews dampened down the flames and checked the building for hot spots using thermal imaging equipment.
Many residents of the block, urged to flee by emergency services personnel, left the building in such a hurry they were gathered outside in their pyjamas.
Student Ana Del Rio, 25, said: “I was sleeping and the first I heard of it was there were firemen knocking on the door.
“They were saying “get outside”.
“We didn't know what was going on and I was pretty shocked.
“We didn't even have time to get changed, we just went straight outside.”
One of her flatmates and fellow language college students, 32-year-old Alfonso Fernandez, said they were going to miss their classes as a result of the blaze, but it was better than being trapped inside.
He said: “We've been waiting about an hour now. I hope no one was hurt.”
Another resident Alejandro Lopez, a 33-year-old who works at the bar of the Royal Bath Hotel, said he heard a ‘fire noise’ earlier that morning but had fallen asleep again.
“I obviously wasn’t that worried,” he said.
“But then I heard the sirens and then the firefighters were knocking on the door. They were shouting “there's a fire, get out”.
“It wasn't very calm and it made me a bit more nervous about it.”
He added: “I did get dressed, though. I've got work in half an hour.”
Another resident, Morad Kajur, was woken by the smell of smoke, while Yolima Barros, 35, heard something hitting her window.
“I dismissed it at first as it is such a noisy building, I thought it was someone banging around upstairs,” she said.
“I closed the window but then I could smell smoke, like something burning.
“That was it, I was scared so I got my trousers on and went straight outside. I think everyone got out.”
The cause of the fire was clothing which accidentally came into contact with a heater.
Fortunately no one was injured in the blaze, and it was contained within the flat. The road was re-opened by midday.