Page last updated at 11:05 GMT, Monday, 3 May 2010 12:05 UK

Fire crews leave burnt-out Aylesford Homebase store

A mechanical digger was brought in to demolish parts of the building

Fire crews have left the scene of a major fire at a Kent retail park nearly 42 hours after it started.

About 90 firefighters tackled the blaze at South Aylesford Retail Park at the height of the incident.

The fire started in Homebase on Saturday and spread to Carpetright, causing shoppers and staff to flee as flames ripped through the site.

Fire crews left the scene at about 0700 BST on Monday, although further checks were being made throughout the day.

Hotspots tackled

A spokeswoman for Kent Fire and Rescue Service said a mechanical digger was brought in on Sunday night to demolish some unstable parts of the building.

Crews were then able to access the last remaining hotspots before leaving the scene in the morning.

Kent Police said fire crews had to declare the fire out, and the building remains had to be checked for structural safety before officers could access the site, possibly on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The fire is being treated as suspicious.

Retail park fire
About 80 shoppers were in the two stores when the fire started

Officers are also investigating whether the incident could be linked to a blaze at a B&Q store in nearby Larkfield which happened half-an-hour after the alert was raised at Homebase.

The stores are two miles apart.

The alert at Homebase came at about 1245 BST after a fire alarm was activated, and the store was evacuated.

A store manager said there were about 50 shoppers in Homebase and 30 shoppers in Carpetright at the time.

At the height of the fire, 17 fire engines and several support vehicles were needed. The fire was brought under control by about 2100 BST.

The area around the incident was fenced off on Sunday to allow other stores on the retail park to open as normal.

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