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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 December, 2003, 08:34 GMT
Streets evacuated after church fire
Christ Church, Ebbw Vale
The spire was already in the process of being renovated
More than 30 homes had to be evacuated in a south Wales town over fears that a church spire would collapse after it was damaged by fire.

The blaze, at Christ Church in Ebbw Vale, was put out by firefighters, but there is extensive damage to the Grade II listed 175ft spire and surrounding roads were closed.

People living in Church Street, spent the night in the town's leisure centre after being moved from their homes shortly after the fire was reported at 2300 GMT on Wednesday.

An electrical fault is believed to be the cause of the blaze and police are not treating it as suspicious.

The fire was 150ft above ground level, which was high for firefighters to tackle
Fire officer Dave Morris

An 18-month programme of renovation work has been in progress at the church for the last six months.

Scaffolding was already in place around the spire and there were fears over the damage caused by the fire.

About 80 people in Church Street, Church Crescent, Spencer Street and Victoria Road, have now been allowed to return to their homes.

Structural engineers, have visited the site and remedial work is being undertaken to make the spire safe.

The Rector, Geoff Waggett said he was relieved that the damage was contained.

"We thought it was going to be a lot worse than it has actually turned out to be," he said.

Fire officer Dave Morris, from South Wales Fire Service, said the height of the fire in the church spire made it difficult to tackle.

He told BBC Radio Wales: "The fire was 150ft above ground level, which was high for firefighters to tackle.

"With severe winds at that time of night, it was a tough job to extinguish.

'Severe damage'

"We had to tackle it from outside the spire and on the scaffolding that was being used to renovate the church."

Mr Morris added that it took crews with three fire engines, a hydraulic platform and special line rescue unit, between three and four hours to put out the flames.

"There is severe damage to structural supporting elements and the main beams holding it together were badly damaged," he said.

"The spire is structurally unstable with a possible risk of collapse.

Christ Church was built in 1860-61 by the Ebbw Vale Iron Company, and was recognised as outstanding in 1978 by the Historic Buildings Council for Wales.

It received a 145,000 grant for repairs in 2001, which included the reslating of the spire and structural works to the base of the spire.




SEE ALSO:
Fire church neighbours flee
11 Dec 03  |  South East Wales
Special service after church fire
02 Nov 03  |  Shropshire
Fire damages city chapel
12 Nov 03  |  South East Wales


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