INVESTIGATIONS are currently taking place into the cause of a major fire which destroyed Hoole Enterprise Centre during the early hours of Thursday (December 2).
Fire investigastion teams are examining the scene yet it is still unclear as to the cause of the huge blaze which happened about 4am.
Residents of nearby Thomas Brassey Close were evacuated as a precaution after Chester fire crews were called to the scene around 4am.
There is major transport disruption as a result of the blaze with all trains stopped from arriving and departing from Chester Railway Station which lies right next to the Enterprise Centre.
Hoole’s United Reformed Church in Hoole Road has opened its doors to provide warmth and shelter for residents who had to be evacuated from their homes.
Eye witness Clare Willoughby was one of about 50 residents who stood in Lightfoot Street to watch firefighters tackle the huge blaze at Hoole Enterprise Centre.
Clare was woken up at about 4.15am today by the sound of sirens and what she thought was a helicopter.
The Longburgh Close resident said: "I looked out of my bedroom window and could see an orange glow. I kicked my other half out of bed and went for a nosey.
"There was one fire engine in Lightfoot Street at that point and the police were trying to get everyone out of their houses next to the fire and then they moved everyone across from Lightfoot Street.
"When we first got there, there weren’t too many people around but as the people were evacuated from their houses, the crowd grew. In the end, there were about 50 or so people watching the fire.
"We could see the building which was well alight. It was an absolutely massive fire. We could see the roof was caving in and so was the rest of the building.Related content
"I think the only thing you will be able to do with that building afterwards is to demolish it."
This was the second time Clare had suffered a rude awakening due to a major fire in Hoole - about 14 years ago she remembers the night a blaze ripped through most of Lightfoot Street itself.
"It was a similar thing - I woke up and could see an orange glow through the bedroom window but I didn’t go out to see it that time."
And devastated business owners are this morning counting the cost of the fire which gutted the Enterprise Centre
The massive Cheshire West and Chester run unit accommodates 99 offices and industrial units and houses a wide range of small firms from leisure and fitness, recruitment and employment to accountancy which include Hatcher Hughes, Just Housing, Handymanpower.com, Karen Johnes Recruitment Agency and Total Rebuild Gym.
Hatcher Hughes Accountants based at Chester Enterprise Centre only just found out about the incident.
A spokesman said: "I'm in a state of shock really I've just only found out from an employee about half an ago. We have not been contacted by anybody we don't know the cause of it."
The major route into Chester had to be sealed off after the fire was reported 3.50pm and 60 residents living near to the centre had to be evacuted. All emergency services were called to the scene.
A Police spokeswoman said: "Cheshire Police remain at the scene of a large fire at the Chester Enterprise centre off Hoole Bridge in Chester near to the railway station. Cheshire Fire and Rescue have 16 pumps at the scene and the fire is being brought under control.
"The fire was declared a major incident earlier this morning and resulted in the implementation of a multi-agency response to the situation. Police officers at the scene are working with Chester West and Chester local Authority who are operating a rest centre for those residents who have been evaluated form their homes, currently there are about 50 people at the rest centre, which is a nearby Church.
"Cheshire Fire and Rescue have now advised us that the plume of smoke form the fire does not pose any risks to members of the public. The building involved has major structural damage but because of its locations within the site does not pose any risk to members of the public.
"Police officers are currently working with the local authority and the Highways Agency to lift the road closures. The cause of the fire has yet to be established."
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PICTURE SUPPLIED BY CLARE WILLOUGHBY