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Animals rescued from Ruxley blaze

PUBLISHED: 10:35 30 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:38 25 August 2010

WRECKED: Ruxley Manor Garden centre warehouses after the blaze.

WRECKED: Ruxley Manor Garden centre warehouses after the blaze.

A FAMILY-RUN garden centre lost all of its stock in a massive fire ahead of one of its busiest weekends of the year.

A FAMILY-RUN garden centre lost all of its stock in a massive fire ahead of one of its busiest weekends of the year.

Two warehouses at Ruxley Manor Garden Centre, off Maidstone Road, Sidcup, caught fire at 2.30pm for four hours last Sunday, requiring hundreds of shoppers to be evacuated.

The fifth-generation family business reopened the next day despite having lost a huge amount of stock including its popular Santa's Grotto setup.

Around 60 firefighters tackled the inferno and also rescued animals at the site, including reindeer, fish and lizards. Witness Margaret Reynolds, of Maidstone Road, said: "I have never seen that much smoke before.

"It was thick and black and we thought it might be toxic because of the smell.

"We had just driven into the centre when we noticed that everyone was rushing out the other way.

"It was handled very well by the staff." Residents across north Kent reported a huge plume of smoke covering the skyline as the blaze took hold.

Andrew Evans, joint owner of the centre, said he was shocked to see the damage to his property, but insisted the loss of stock would not scupper his business.

He said: "It is a big loss but we are talking with our suppliers to sort it out. We're just focusing on getting ready for the Bank Holiday weekend.

"The year had been going well up until now with sales up on 2008 figures. We're just glad the fire brigade responded really quickly and had it all under control before the fire reached any of the shop floor area."

Fire crews still surrounded the centre on Monday, unable to put out the dying embers as one of the warehouses was about to collapse.

Chris Pointer, watch manager at Sidcup fire station, said: "It was a fast spreading fire due to the blustery conditions.

"The staff did a very fast evacuation and told us about 50 to 60 gas cylinders that were exploding."

London Fire Brigade investigators are not treating the blaze as suspicious.

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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