FIVE businesses went up in flames after a huge blaze broke out in a row of shops.
The fire at the Triangle Centre, in High Road, Langdon Hills, is believed to have started because of a technical fault in the roof of chinese take-away, Hong Kong House.
CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO FROM THE SCENE http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCnl9826OyM
Firefighters from Basildon, Rayleigh Weir and Orsett were called to the scene at around 1.50pm today and found the flames had spread along the roof to newsagents McColl’s, the Elizabeth Louise Hair and Beauty Salon, The Chip Shop and a computer company that rented out a sub-unit at the centre.
Explosions could be heard coming from the businesses, which were all destroyed in the blaze.
David Strelitz from Langdon Hills, was on his way home from London when he noticed thick black smoke covering Basildon.
He said: “As I came over the top of Langdon Hills I thought there was a really big bonfire somewhere because of all the smoke, and it was really strong smelling. I was going planning to go into the post office at McColl’s but as soon as I started to turn into the Triangle I could see that this was certainly not a garden fire.
“I used to go into McColl’s a lot but I expect I won’t be for a long time now. There were always nice and friendly people and it’s such a shame when local businesses and employees are affected like this.”
High Road was closed off between Valence Way and Delmores while firefighters battled the flames from all angles.
Assistant divisional officer Mark Earwicker, in charge of the operation, warned local residents to keep their windows and doors shut to prevent the thick smoke entering their homes.
He said: "When crews arrived they were faced with a well developed fire in the roof of the building, which quickly spread across the centre which houses three units.
"Crews have worked extremely hard and have done an excellent job in getting on top of this fire.
"The fire involved a number canisters and a quantity of alcohol which caused a few small explosions within the building, nothing which caused us any real problems.
"The roof has now collapsed into the building and has covered the fire creating pockets of fire in the building which are proving hard for crews to get at.
"We will be here for many hours yet to come turning over and damping down."
Firefighters were expected to remain at the scene into the night.
Basildon Council sent their own officers to The Triangle to provide support to residents.
Their corporate property team and building surveryors were also on hand to offer help and advice to the shop tenants.
On Friday morning, in the aftermath of the blaze, fire crews returned to the site to damp down any hotspots of the fire.