TEN people had to be evacuated from their homes in the middle of the night after arsonists struck at a bakery and shoe repair shop.
Around 30 firefighters spent three hours tackling the blaze at Greggs Bakery in Queens Road, which spread to the Clown pub and Cut ‘N’ Mended in Russell Street.
Police said the fire started on Tuesday between 2am and 3am and it took more than three hours to put out.
Businesses have now been left counting the cost. Karl Boyd, owner of Cut ‘N’ Mended, said: “Half the shop was completely burnt out and the other half smoke damaged. The fire started on the roof.
“It is going to cost me more than £50,000 to replace everything and reopen the shop as new. But I am confident we will be trading again soon.”
Initially, firefighters began tackling the fire at Cut ‘N’ Mended and were then diverted to the back of Greggs Bakery.
Colin Doherty, watch commander at East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “The original call came in to the shoe repair shop which is at the end of a terrace of shops.
“We could see flames coming from the roof and started to deal with that. Firefighters then could see smoke coming out of the property next to the Clown pub at the back of Greggs Bakery.
“We then realised there was a fire coming from the first-floor window.
“We evacuated the flats in Queens Road and Russell Street as the fire had potential to spread. Luckily, it was a warm evening and many went to their neighbours and it wasn’t too long before they could go back in.”
Mr Doherty said Greggs Bakery’s storage area was severely damaged and there were burnt baguettes and gingerbread men everywhere.
He said: “Crews faced difficult firefighting conditions as it was an old building with dog leg stairs. There was severe fire damage and it became very hot as we progressed up the floors.
“The aerial latter platform was used to hit the hot spots in the roof which were difficult to get to from underneath and, later on, to make the roof safe and remove the damaged timbers.
A police spokesman said: “As a result of a swift response by emergency services the fire was brought under control and no one was injured.
“It is being treated as suspicious.”
Police are appealing for information. Call Detective Sergeant Paul Sandeman, of Hastings CID, on 0845 60 70 999.
Left: Fire damaged windows