A FIRE tore through a row of town centre shops at the weekend requiring dozens of firefighters to prevent it spreading further.

The fire, in Ringwood, is believed to have started in a wheelie bin behind the Sue Ryder charity shop and Celebrations Cards in Meeting House Lane at around 7.50am on Sunday, before rapidly spreading through six stores.

Around ten fire engines were called to the scene, with the aerial platform required to allow access to the building’s roof.

Both Hampshire and Dorset & Wiltshire fire and rescue services were involved in the operation, with more than 50 fire fighters at the scene. Paramedics also attended but there were no injuries.

Ringwood resident Noel Coates, who lives in a flat behind the scene of the blaze, said: “I woke up to the smell of burning just after 8am and saw smoke billowing out of the roof.”

He said that there were people already on their phones trying to alert the emergency services at the time.

He said he thought the fire might have started in a bin but then spread to an overhanging roof.

“The whole roof is burnt out,” he said.

He also thought a nearby parked car had also been damaged.

A passerby, Guy Bampton, said he had spoken with a morning dog walker who said he had seen the bin on fire around the back of the shops at about 8.10am, ten minutes before the roof of the building was engulfed in flames.

The cause is being investigated.

Although the fire was contained and largely dealt with by 10am, crews remained on the scene for several hours to monitor the building for hot spots.

(note, some swearing in the commentary on below video)

Mayor of Ringwood Michael Thierry said he hopes residents will rally round the affected businesses, particularly at the town’s Christmas lights switch-on this Saturday.

Cllr Thierry said: “Fortunately in terms of residents nobody has been hurt or injured in the shop, and for that we need to be grateful.”

“We also are grateful the fire took hold quite early in the morning when it was light rather than dark.”

However, he said the impact on Celebrations Cards would be huge.

Cllr Thierry added: “I really do feel for them, it is a family business.

“One has to say that very often a fire like this is a closure of a business, I hope they manage to come back again.”

“I am sure we as a council will do all we can to help them.”

He said that next week the town will hold its Christmas Lights Switch-On and he expects people to rally round the businesses affected .

Cllr Thierry added: “What I do really feel is that the locals will respond to this and the event will be brilliant because the people of the town always rally round in these particular situations and they will want to come out to support those people affected.”

Ringwood Town and New Forest District councillor Christine Ford was stunned when she heard the news. Cllr Ford said: “I am absolutely devastated, until we know quite how it started I can’t really make a judgement.

“All I know is that it started in a wheelie bin.

“We want to support the businesses and those affected, there are at least two listed buildings near it, they are the Meeting House and The Chapel, and there’s our revered pub the Inn on the Furlong.”

“I heard about the fire at 8am this morning, I do now know how long it had been going on before people noticed it, but I’m just glad nobody was hurt.”

Residents took to social media to express their shock, one person wrote on Facebook: “Such a shame. I wondered why there were over 20 emergency vehicles in town today.”

Another said: “That fire in Ringwood today! Bit of a shocker. Took out Sue Ryder and Longs.”