CLOTHES caught fire in Age Concern on Watergate Street in Chester, forcing the closure of surrounding shops.
The area was cordoned off and properties above evacuated when three fire engines and an aerial appliance arrived at the charity shop at around 9.30am today (Wednesday, October 29).
The scare was triggered after a fault in an electical box showered hot plastic on to clothes below, igniting the flames.
Firefighters could be seen dousing the burning clothes with water on the pavement outside at 10am.
Manager at Age Concern Valerie Lowe arrived at work as normal to open the shop for 9am.
She said: “The heaters were put on because it was cold.
“Donna, a volunteer, got in at 9.30am and I was cleaning the stairs.
“I smelled smoke, looked round and the whole box was on fire. “I said ‘get out quick’ and called the fire service.
“Hot plastic dropped on clothes below and they were on fire.
“A parcel delivery man came to help and the firefighters were here straight away. They took the clothes out to soak them with water.”
The Vintage Shop next door was also closed but suffered no damage.
Due to open at 10am, the managers arrived to find access to their store blocked by the cordon.
Emma Swinnerton, joint manager said: “Hopefully nothing has been damaged in our shop.”
The cordon was removed at 10.15am and a fire appliance will remain at the scene until someone from Manweb comes to check the electrics.