FIREFIGHTERS are tackling a blaze at Prezzo restaurant in central Harrogate.
The fire broke out in the kitchens of the Albert Street restaurant, a spokesman for the fire service said.
The incident has now been “sectorised” as it is believed that the fire has spread to the first floor.
Furrther fire engines and the Incident Command Unit have been requested to attend.
North Yorkshire Police are asking people to avoid the area. Station Parade has temporarily been closed at Albert Street.
A total of 18 appliances, plus an aerial ladder platform from Harrogate, are on their way to the scene.
The fire is thought to have started on the ground floor of the three storey building. There is heavy smoke logging to the ground and first floor of the building.
Fire crews are fighting the fire from outside of the building using 6 main jets and the aerial ladder platform.
North Yorkshire Police are still asking people to avoid the area. A spokesman said: “There is a lot of smoke in the area, so nearby residents and businesses may wish to keep their doors and windows closed.”
Firefighters wearing specialist breathing equipment are inside the building tackling the fire.
The fire service said the blaze was in the kitchen ducting and was both inside and outside the pipes.
By 3pm the fire crews had retreated from fighting the blaze from inside the building with as many as 90 firefighters tackling the blaze from the street.
Yorkshire Ambulance said its crews were at the scene of the fire as a precaution.
North Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service said firefighters were attempting to access flats adjoining the building to check for signs that smoke logging was spreading, but there were no indications of the fire having breached neighbouring properties.
There had been no reports of people having had to be evacuated or rescued from the building when firefighters arrived at the scene, the fire service.
Hundreds of tweets are being posted about the fire on Twitter.
Wonder Media, the website design firm on the other side of Station Parade from the restaurant, tweeted that staff have had to leave the office as the smoke was getting too intense.
Photographs on the social media channel show the smoke drifting across Station Parade in large plumes and one Harrogate resident reported that they could see flames from the roof of the building from almost a mile away, from Harrogate Grammar School.
Bus operator Transdev said the fire meant town centre buses were likely to be subject to delays and short notice diversions with traffic coming to a standstill. Connexions Buses reported that all its Harrogate services were running late.
Janine Turnbull, managing director of Silvertree, a hospitality recruitment firm on Station Bridge approximately 50 metres downwind of the fire, said: “At about 11am I looked out the window and thought it was mist because it wasn’t a thick smoke cloud at first. I went out at 12.15pm for lunch and at that point there was one fire engine and we were able to walk down the street past the restaurant. The chef and staff were standing in the street and were talking to a fireman who had just come out of the building. His uniform was covered in smoke.
“Fast forward an hour and there were about seven fire engines and three ambulances and the whole road was closed off.”
Speaking at around 4.30pm, she said: “The thick is now thick and billowing. I can see seven fire engines and four or five ambulances. The police are cordoning off a wide area. At the roundabout where the cinema is, traffic is being stopped from going along Station Bridge opposite the restaurant.”
Neil Turnbull, a director at the company, said he had been told how the fire was suspected to have started by a firefighter at the scene.
“I’m told the fire started in the air ducting that takes fumes from the kitchen out into the fresh air and that it was a build-up of fat in the ducting that has caused the fire to be started. It subsequently spread to the roof and has burned into the apartments above.”
Esme Dawber, a waitress at the Filmore & Union cafe just around the corner from Prezzo, in James Street, said her and another member of staff evacuated the premises at around 3pm and closed up because they could smell the smoke inside the building.
“I arrived at work at 11am and by ten past someone came in and said there was a chimney fire at Prezzo and that it was only minor. More people came in and started talking about it so I went outside at about 12.30pm and it had spread and there were three fire engines.
“All afternoon it’s been fire engine after fire engine going past and by 3pm we said we were going to have to evacuate - we had a room full of customers, 14 people.
“You could smell the smoke in the basement. The back of our shop is at the back of theirs.
“It’s very smoky and quite hard to breath out there. I have a headache from smelling the smoke. It’s clinging to everything outside. The police have moved everyone away now. I past Farrow & Ball (on the same street as the cafe) and it was full of smoke. There were pets being brought out in cages from the apartments.
“I’ve never seen anything like it.”