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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 December, 2003, 15:28 GMT
Fire church neighbours flee
Christ Church, Ebbw Vale
Fire fighters feared that the spire of the church would collapse
Eighty people had to be evacuated from their homes in Ebbw Vale after a church caught fire early on Thursday.

Most people living near Christ Church - a Grade Two listed building - were unaware of the unfolding drama, even sleeping through the sirens of the fire engines.

But as fire fighters tackled the blaze in the spire fears grew that it could collapse altogether after it was revealed that the central column had been destroyed.

Police then decided to evacuate 34 homes nearby and officers were dispatched to rouse people during the early hours of the morning.

Charmaine Brading who lives next door to the church was one of the first to be woken.

"Even though I live next to the church, I wasn't aware that there was a fire there," she said.

"I was woken by a really loud knocking on the door.

"It was a bit of a shock to see the police at the door, but they told us what had happened and we had to leave straight away."

Dorothy Brading
The evacuation brought back war time memories for Dorothy Brading

Charmaine's grandmother Dorothy and father Julian, who had travelled from their home in Dartmouth for a few days, said it was the last thing they had expected.

"You read about this thing happening to other people but you never imagine it happening to you," said Mr Brading.

For his mother being evacuated brought back memories of the past.

"I went through evacuations during the war," explained Dorothy Brading.

"Obviously I was concerned when the police turned up at the door because I thought something had happened at home.

"But when we arrived at the leisure centre, it reminded me of the times during the war, with everyone pulling together."

Many of the evacuees went to stay with family and friends.

Refuge

But a large number took refuge in the town's leisure centre - including Lesley and Roger Mackenzie and their four daughters.

"We knew that there was a fire at the church because we had watched what was going on," said Mrs Mackenzie.

"But we went to bed thinking that everything would be ok.

"Then my eldest daughter, who lives nearby, started hammering at the front door to get us up followed by the police.

"They told us to get dressed and leave immediately and they were pretty insistent.

"I was really nervous and worried but we were really well looked after," she said.


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