Leeds shop boss doubts investigators’ findings on cause of devastating blaze

The owner of a shop destroyed by a huge blaze has cast doubt on claims the fire was probably sparked by an electrical fault.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 15th December 2015, 8:32 am
Dozens of firefighters were involved at the height of the incident
Dozens of firefighters were involved at the height of the incident

Hills Furnishing Stores, on Kirkgate in Leeds city centre, had to be demolished following the incident on Friday, November 6.

An investigation by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority found it was not possible to determine conclusively what caused the fire because of the extent of damage to the building.

But a report on the incident said: “The most likely cause is an electrical fault due to ingress of water caused by the building’s poor state of repair.”

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Audrey Noble believes the fire could have been caused by a firework

However, Audrey Noble, whose husband, Gordon, ran the business for more than 60 years and who took over following his death in 2012, said she would “definitely disagree” with the findings.

Mrs Noble said: “I was in that shop at 3.45pm and the fire was coming out of the roof of the building by 4.20pm.

“If it had been an electrical fault, it would have had to have been smouldering – there would have had to have been some sign of it in the shop and I would obviously have dealt with it. There was absolutely no indication that anything was wrong.”

Firefighters were called to Kirkgate shortly before 4.30pm – about 45 minutes after Mrs Noble had shut the shop for the weekend – and large crowds gathered to watch their attempts to tackle the blaze.

At the height of the incident, eight pumps and three aerial appliances were being used.

Even after the fire had been extinguished surrounding roads remained closed because of concerns about the structural safety of the building – some of which dated back to the 17th century.

The remains of the shop were demolished the following week.

Mrs Noble said she believedthe fire started in the derelict upper floor of the building, where there was no electricity supply.

“It was Bonfire Night the night before and I think the most likely answer is that it was caused by a firework that had been smouldering in the roof for some time.”