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Sunday, 2 June, 2002, 21:28 GMT 22:28 UK
Buckingham Palace blaze out
The smoke rose over London for an hour
The smoke rose over London for an hour
A fire at Buckingham Palace forced officials to evacuate the building on Sunday in the middle of four days of celebrations to honour the Queen's Golden Jubilee.

The blaze, which according to Palace sources started in a disused toilet in the palace's west wing, has been extinguished and salvage teams are now inspecting the damage.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said no-one from the Royal family was inside the Palace at the time, adding that as far as he knew nobody was injured.

Fire fighter on palace roof
Fire fighters escorted staff from roof
The fire had cast doubts on whether Monday's pop concert in the Palace gardens would go ahead, but the event's organisers have confirmed that it will.

A Palace spokesman said: "There is absolutely no question of it not."

The fire broke out in the loft of the West Terrace at 1841 BST, but was contained in a small area and was extinguished within an hour.

Steve Newman, a fire fighter on the scene, said: "We had around 20 pumps and the royal household has been fully informed.

"In the course of fire fighting, four people were escorted from the roof.

"They were staff who were guided down through the house. They were staff working on the roof."

Arson unlikely

Fire Commissioner Brian Robinson said: "There has been no damage to any of the Queen's treasures or artefacts

"There is some water damage to carpets, partly caused by us and partly by damaged pipes during the course of the fire."

The cause of the fire is being investigated by the fire brigade and the Metropolitan Police, but arson is not suspected.

The Palace and the grounds were evacuated, including hundreds of artists, musicians and workers preparing for the pop concert.

A massive music auditorium with stage and stands had been constructed in the garden and rehearsals were under way when the fire was spotted.

Queen guitarist Brian May said he had been about to rehearse with Joe Cocker when the evacuation began.

Flames

He told BBC News 24: "It was all going extremely well ... then everything ground to a halt.

"We've all been herded to this area by the tennis courts. Everyone's quite calm - it takes as long as it takes."

He said the fire had not affected high spirits and described the scene as an "enormous crowd of extremely famous people all sitting around on the lawn and chatting".

TV and radio presenter Jamie Theakston told BBC News 24 that everyone "was cleared away very safely".


There will be Dunkirk spirit there tonight

Nick Vaghan Barret
Event organiser
Palace staff are now being allowed back into the building and rehearsals have resumed.

Nick Vaghan Barret, organiser of Monday's concert, said it would go ahead as scheduled.

"The fire is now out. The only concern is water damage and how to contain that," he said.

"There will be Dunkirk spirit there tonight - I can't wait to get back in there.

"We are not using the inside of the Palace at all, we are outside in the gardens - then I'm absolutely confident the concert will go ahead, unless there is something we do not know."

Crowds

The Queen was at Windsor Castle when the fire broke out. She was not due to return to Buckingham Palace on Sunday and has confirmed that she will stay at Windsor tonight.

At the height of the fire flames could be seen coming out of the roof as the fire began to take hold.

Fire fighters wearing breathing apparatus clambered on to the roof of the West Terrace, directing hoses towards the centre of the fire.

Crowds outside the Palace were moved down the Mall by police.

It is 10 years since much of Windsor Castle was destroyed by fire.

More than 100 rooms, covering an area of 7,000 square metres, were damaged in the blaze, which is thought to have been started by a spotlight shining on a curtain.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Helen Simms
"Firefighters did not seem unduly concerned by the blaze"
'Queen' band member Brian May
"Everyone's quite calm"
TV presenter Jamie Theakston
"We are waiting to know if we can go back and carry on rehearsing"
Fire Commissioner Brian Robinson
"The cause is being investigated between ourselves and the Metropolitan Police"

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02 Jun 02 | Entertainment
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