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Canon Andrew White
"The fire broke out... very close to the choir school where 25 boys were in rehersal"
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The BBC's Guy Latcham
"Valuable plates... are thought to have survived undamaged"
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Tuesday, 27 February, 2001, 13:45 GMT
Firefighters tackle cathedral blaze
Tapestry by Graham Sutherland through a haze of smoke
Firefighters battled to protect the cathedral's treasures
Dozens of firefighters were called to Coventry Cathedral to tackle a blaze which broke out in the basement.

The fire was discovered by a cleaner at around 0800 GMT, and was brought under control before it could spread.

But firefighters say a large quantity of smoke had threatened serious damage to the cathedral's treasures.

Coventry cathedral ruins
The cathedral was gutted by fire after German bombing
Specialist equipment was brought in to pump the fumes away from the basement.

A cathedral spokesman said the valuable and historic works of art on display - including a tapestry by Graham Sutherland - appeared to have escaped.

"We've been really lucky as it wasn't a complete disaster," said the spokesman.

The cause of the blaze is not clear. It started in an area used for storing hymn books and chairs, said the spokesman.

Firefighters
Firemen had to wear breathing apparatus to fight the flames
West Midlands Fire Service sent 10 appliances and 75 firefighters to tackle the blaze.

"We managed to contain it to a small area of the basement and we are now trying to minimise the effects of the smoke as best as possible to avoid any further damage to the cathedral," said Divisional Officer Paul Thomason.

"We are very confident that we have managed to keep it away from the main part of the cathedral, and we have still only got crews wearing breathing apparatus in there because of the smoke."

The city's old cathedral was gutted by fire during bombing raids on the city during the Second World War. A new cathedral was built beside the ruins, and was opened in 1962.

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