A HUGE blaze tore through a grocery store in a town centre street, gutting the building but leaving a church unscathed.
Neighbours had to be evacuated from their homes in Lagos Street at 10.30pm on Sunday as the inferno ripped through the Baraka Grocery store.
Five fire crews were called at 9.50pm to reports of the blaze, which is believed to have started accidentally in the living quarters above the shop, and it took around four hours to get the fire under control and put it out. No one was injured in the incident.
Police closed access to several roads, including Corporation Street at the junctions with Carfax Street and Manchester Road, Lagos Street and Alfred Street.
Pastor Tom Price, minister at the Discovery Church, next door to the gutted building, said: “We are grateful to God that the church was left unscathed.
“It was a shock to see and I did think my goodness because it was right next door to the church but the firefighters visited and said everything was fine.
“Thankfully there was no one inside the building at the time, but I understand the tenants had just redone the shop and were about to open so it’s awful for them.”
Neighbours, including housewife Keka Mukherjee, rushed outside when they heard an explosion.
“It was about 9.40pm and I was just watching TV when I heard this big noise, like an explosion,” she said.
“It was a huge fire by then and there was lots of thick black smoke.
“The fire brigade came out with all the fire engines and by 10.30pm they were struggling to get it under control. Maybe there were some things inside that kept catching fire.
“They evacuated people on the same side of the street as the building and one family came over to our home.
“But after 11.30pm it started to go down and the firefighters went inside with the water.”
Zelia De Sousa, 34, said: “The building was full of fire and the brigade tried to put it out with water. We could see it was burning all through the top floor and the flames were very high.
“We were worried it would spread to the church buildings but the fire service did a great job.”
A spokesman for Wiltshire Fire and Rescue said: “The fire is believed to have started accidentally.
“Fire crews from Swindon, Stratton and Westlea initially attended to tackle the blaze, supported by the aerial appliance from Swindon, an incident command vehicle from Stratton and a crew from Cricklade.
“The incident was under control by 2.20am but the service maintained a presence at the scene throughout the night to continue damping down – crews from Malmesbury, Marlborough and Corsham attended for this.
“The fire destroyed the first floor and roof of the building, with smoke and water damage to the shop itself.”
“A full fire investigation has not been possible due to the building being deemed unsafe by Swindon Council’s building control officer. While there are no suspicious circumstances, the exact cause of the blaze is likely to remain unknown.”
A police spokesman said: “We were alerted by the fire service to reports of a fire at a grocery store. Neighbouring houses were evacuated.”