A woman has been arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life after a flat fire brought the town centre to a standstill.
Emergency services were called to a flat fire in Cross Keys at 12.43pm yesterday (Wednesday June 22).
A police spokesman said: “One woman was treated for the effects of smoke inhalation and taken to the East Surrey Hospital, Redhill.
“A 42-year-old Crawley woman was arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to danger life. She was questioned and released on bail until 22 September.”
A woman, who was suffering from smoke inhalation, was helped off a balcony after four fire crews were called to smoke coming from Cross Keys.
A fire service spokesman said she was given oxygen and firefighters in breathing gear used two hose reels to tackle the ‘severe fire’ in a third floor flat.
She was taken to East Surrey Hospital for further checks, said South East Coast Ambulance Service.
Cllr Carlos Castro (Lab, Tilgate) said he could barely breathe as the ‘very thick smoke’ spread as far as the Broadway.
He said more than 100 people were at the scene after four fire engines, ambulances, and police closed off the area.
“It was really really thick smoke - I couldn’t even breathe it.
“There’s a massive blockade of traffic by the roundabout.
“Hundred people or more are looking at what’s going on.
“It’s a pretty scary thing that it’s happening in the middle of the town where you have all these people shopping - especially at the bus stop (near the scene in The Broadway) - poor people.”
A police spokesman said: “Police closed Cross Keys, Crawley, between the B2219 High Street and The Broadway while firefighters dealt with a blaze that broke out in a block of flats at around 12.45pm. The fire was reported to be out at 1.17pm. One woman was being treated for the effects of smoke inhalation. No evacuation of neighbouring properties was necessary.”
The entire flat was damaged - 80 per cent by fire, the rest by smoke, a West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said.
Jill’s Sewing Room, which was directly below the flat, suffered water damage on its first floor.
Gwen Simpson, deputy manager, described the ‘horrible’ incident.
She left her shop after seeing smoke and join a crowd looking up at the flat.
Men who had been carrying out works on flats above shops in Cross Keys had called the fire service.
She said: “There was a lot of smoke coming from the flat above us.
“It would have been horrible up there.
“It was quite frightening to see all that smoke.
“It took your breath away, you think ‘my god that’s awful’ - it was awful, it was just something horrible.”
She said her shop was closed for only an hour and added: “It amazed me how quickly they (firefighters) got it sorted - they were very very quick.”
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