Co-op fire: Shoppers evacuated from Gillingham store

Shoppers had to be evacuated from a Co-op store in Dorset after a "major" fire broke out.

Forty-two firefighters were called to extinguish the blaze at the shop in High Street, Gillingham, at about 17.50 BST on Saturday.

Fire officer Michael Cox from Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, said it was believed the fire was sparked by a faulty freezer unit.

No-one was hurt in the blaze which destroyed half of the store, he said.

Fire officer Cox said the store managers could smell burning coming from the back of the store.

'Place of safety'

"They couldn't spot anything but then after two or three minutes they reassessed and saw flames at the back of the store," he said.

"As soon as they've located that then they've done the right thing and evacuated everyone to a place of safety, got themselves out, and waited for the service to arrive."

The store suffered 100% smoke damage and 50% structural damage and was a "major incident," he said.

Firefighters managed to put out the flames before the fire spread to neighbouring shops.

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