Devon

Electrical fault suspected of causing Dartmouth fire

Fire damage in Fairfax Place
Image caption Even repairing the Tudor facades could take in excess of six months

An electrical fault probably caused a fire which destroyed Dartmouth's historic Tudor centre, firefighters have revealed.

Eight businesses and up to 15 flats in the Devon port were destroyed or severely damaged in the fire on Friday.

Among the buildings destroyed in Fairfax Place were 16th Century Tudor buildings with English Heritage Grade I and Grade II* listed status.

The area is cordoned off as structural experts assess safety.

Devon and Somerset Fire Service station manager Andy Rowse said forensic investigators had established the fire was not suspicious and an electrical fault was "likely" to have been responsible.

'Hugely significant'

It is possible some of the buildings may have to be demolished, while others could take six months or more to rebuild or refurbish.

Lesley and Chris Challacombe, whose estate agency was destroyed in the fire, have vowed to rebuild.

"As long as we can keep the facade - because she's Grade II - we'll do it," Mrs Challacombe said.

Image caption Crews from across Devon fought to prevent the fire spreading further

Commenting on the impact of the fire, English Heritage said the immediate priority was safety and establishing the structural integrity of the buildings.

"The listed buildings in Fairfax Place damaged by this fire are a hugely significant part of the historic centre of Dartmouth, valuable to the local community and without doubt they play a vital role in attracting visitors to the area," it said in a statement.

"English Heritage will work with the local authority to help to assess the damage to the original fabric of the buildings and begin the process of identifying what can and cannot be salvaged from the fire."

At its height, nearly 100 firefighters from across Devon fought to control the blaze and prevent it from spreading further.

Some of those who lost their homes in the fire have been taken in by other Dartmouth residents.

Crews were still in Dartmouth more than 48 hours after the fire broke out damping down hot spots in some of the collapsed buildings which they are unable to access.

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