Page last updated at 18:33 GMT, Friday, 30 May 2008 19:33 UK

Fire wrecks council headquarters

Council office fire (credit Thomas Brightwell)
The fire spread from a wing of the building to the main offices

Council offices in a Leicestershire town have been gutted in a major fire.

Firefighters are continuing to damp down at the headquarters of Melton Borough Council in Nottingham Road.

The roof of the council chamber building was destroyed in the fire. Eyewitnesses said flames could be seen above the building.

There are no reports of any injuries and officials have said the council has emergency plans so it can continue to function despite the fire.

The building also houses the East Midlands Regional Assembly.

The fire is thought to have started in a single storey wing of the offices, which contained the council chamber and register office, but then spread.

Council office fire [taken by Jonathan McGrady]
Witnesses said they were surprised at the ferocity of the fire
Roads in the area were closed off for many hours and people living nearby were asked to close windows.

Smoke was visible from some miles away and fire crews used foam to tackle the blaze.

Councillor Matthew O'Callaghan said he rushed to the scene after smelling smoke while still at home.

"I was really surprised at how quickly the fire took hold and the extent of the damage.

"We have a long-standing emergency plan in place and all computer files are backed up so the council should be able to function despite this."

Bride-to-be Claire Munro, who was due to get married at the register office on Saturday, said she had to find an alternative venue.

"We've rung Leicestershire County Council and they're trying to find us another venue. So fingers crossed we get something sorted for tomorrow.

"We were so worried about the weather and now we don't have anywhere to get married."

Claire Munro
Claire Munro was due to get married at the register office on Saturday

Councillor Malise Graham, leader of Melton Borough Council, said no important information should have been lost in the fire as all records are backed-up.

"The whole function of the borough council is housed in this one building.

"We've saved things like our Royal Charter which is very important to us and photographs of past mayors... we've been going through taking what is possible to save."

The contingency plan means Harborough District Council will take calls to Melton Borough Council.

Residents have been asked only to contact them over critical issues.

There is no indication how the fire was started.


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