Blaze sweeps Soho office building

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The Independent Online

Sixty firefighters tackled a blaze in a bustling area of central London today.

Crews were called to Dean Street in Soho at around 2pm and about an hour later about 10 per cent of the building was alight, London Fire Brigade said.

Twelve fire engines were sent to fight the flames, which erupted in what is believed to be an office building.

Kensington fire station manager Andy Pike said the blaze was under control but the area was likely to be cordoned off for several hours.

He said crews were called at 2pm to reports of a fire at 76 Dean Street. He said 50 people were evacuated from the four-storey office building.

No members of public were injured but two firefighters were slightly hurt.

"We hope we contain the fire to the building it is in now."

Nino Ripani, manager of nearby restaurant Signor Zilli's, said: "It's really shocking, it's something that you don't see every day. It's really getting to serious stuff now - we can see the black bits coming out."

Restaurant customers who had been dining outside were brought inside but the business had stayed open, he said.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

A company called Future Capital is based in the building.

One man who was evacuated from the site said: "We've all been evacuated in the last hour. The fire started in an air conditioning duct."

Soho is a busy area of central London filled with shops, bars and restaurants and tourists clamoured to get a glimpse of the flames.

Fire engines struggled through the crowds to get to the building.

The general manager of the Couch bar, Laura Carr, said: "That end of the street is sectioned off and there are fire trucks there. I think it's spread to the next building, I'm not sure.

"There are lots of people hanging around and just watching, and there would normally be lots of people around at this time anyway.

"We are trading as normal at the moment and will wait to see if there are any further instructions. We're just playing it by ear."

The basement of the four-storey building is alight, the fire brigade said.

It is the second blaze to hit Soho in as many days. Yesterday, fire crews were called to a building in Newport Place, housing a restaurant and offices.

The fire damaged the basement of the five-storey building but no-one was hurt.

A large section of the street was cordoned off and shortly after 3pm firefighters could be seen using a ladder to help tackle the blaze.

Musician David McAlmont was among the crowd gathered at the cordon's edge.

He said: "I'm supposed to be playing a gig tonight at the Pizza Express in Dean Street so I don't know how this will affect it. I saw the smoke from St Martin's Lane and followed it all the way here. It was only then that I realised what was happening."