A FIRE that saw a city centre building evacuated on Thursday night was started deliberately in a derelict building.

Those in charge at the scene said that the building on the High Street,  which used to be a bank, is not open to the public, and they don’t know how those inside managed to gain access.

Six fire engines raced to the scene at 9pm after the initial crews arrived to learn that people were inside, and they were unsure if any remained in the building, which had smoke billowing from the roof and windows.

VIDEO: Firefighters at the scene (taken by Peter Berry)

Senior Officer Steve Buchanan-Lee said that firefighters believed that the blaze was started deliberately, but that it got out of hand rather than those who started the fire meaning to ‘burn the building down’.

He said: “The building used to be a bank and it is now set up as a bar, but it is not open to the public. We are therefore unsure of how many people were inside or how they gained access.

“There are a lot of access points, but they are all bricked up, which made our job harder. The fire was started deliberately, but it was not meant to burn the building down.”

Engines arrived from 9pm after members of the public from nearby pub The Standing Order and the Dolphin Hotel called emergency services.

After three arrived together with police, they were told that people had been seen fleeing from the building. After realising more could still be inside, more engines arrived, together with an ambulance and rapid response vehicles.

Mr Buchanan-Lee added: “We are very grateful to members of the public for their help and raising the alarm. We also carried out fire safety advice and evacuation precautions with neighbouring businesses.”

The fire was out at 10.30pm and the stop message came at 11pm.