A landmark bowling alley has been destroyed as an inferno ripped through the building — with 100 firefighters battling the raging blaze last night.
Part of Strykers bowling alley in Wolverhampton collapsed as the fierce fire ravaged the closed-down venue.
Firefighters were at the scene throughout the night and expected to remain there for most of today.
Flames towered about the building in Bushbury while plumes of smoke filled the sky.
The bowling alley closed suddenly in October, and the owners were due to put it on the market to be leased out again. Today they said they were devastated by the blaze.
At its height around 100 firefighters from across the Black Country and Birmingham battled the blaze. Up to 14 fire engines were at the scene.
One firefighter suffered minor injuries to his ankle during the operation and had to be taken to hospital as a precaution during the course of the fire.
The alarm was raised at around 5.20pm last night, and eight fire engines were initially called to the building on Bushbury Lane.
Police and ambulance crews were called to seal off Bushbury Lane and surrounding roads.
For the three hours fire crews fought the blaze defensively from the outside. The fire was too intense to enter the building, and chiefs feared that it was structurally unsafe.
As the fire took hold police extended out the cordon and the side wall and back of the building started to collapse.
A fire control centre was set up at the scene, along with a fire service welfare unit to make sure those fighting the fire had enough refreshments to get them through. Structural engineers were called in to assess the buildings safety, and although gas and electric supplies had been isolated National Grid were on standby.
At around 9.30pm the fire was eventually brought under control, and fire chiefs started to scale back the operation.
Speaking from the scene, station commander John Kempson, from Bloxwich fire station, said the fire was intense.
He said: “We are fighting the fire defensively, which means we have pulled everyone out of the building and are fighting it from outside. This is due to the intensity of the fire and we are concerned about the safety of the building inside.”
Incident Commander Sarah Warnes who is based at West Midlands Fire Service Headquarters in Vauxhall Road Birmingham said: “We had to put specialist water plan in place because we did not have the water to tackle such a severe blaze. We are now taking water from the canal, just to make sure we have enough to bring it under control.”
“We expect to have crews here for the next 24 hours, as we will be looking for hots spots.”
Ms Warnes said the fire investigators are expecting to be working at the scene today to try and establish a cause.
Two crews remained at the fire scene this morning.
Owner of the building Sam Samri was called at around 6pm.
Speaking at the scene he said: “I’m absolutely devastated. I can’t believe this has happened.”
“I was just about to put it up for lease again. I was due to put up the sign. We had hoped to get it open again very soon. We did have somebody lined up but they went bust, so we were hoping to get someone in very soon.”
Mr Samri who has owned the venue since 2008, and the ran the bowling alley himself for a couple of years said: “ It’s just horrible. I can’t do anything, I just have to watch it burn. It looks like it’s all gone. I’m just gutted.”
The venue had been a bowling alley since the 1980s, and was a favourite haunt for many teenagers and adults alike.
Many also visited the complex for popular laser tag game Quasar, and have spoken of their sadness at seeing the venue go up in smoke.
Mick Shirley, who was visiting the nearby McDonalds with his sons when he saw the fire on Bushbury Lane said it was one of his family’s favourite places to go.
The father-of-two from Blackhalve Lane, Wednesfield said: “It’s just such a shame, everybody used to come down here to bowl and socialise. It’s a landmark and such a well known place, it’s a shock to see it like this.”
“It was just the place you came with the kids and to meet friends, everyone knew it.”
Mother-of-four and grandmother-of-two Sandra Bell said she was very shocked when she saw the fire.
The 48-year-old who lives off Bushbury Lane said: “I’ve never seen anything like this before. The fire is just huge, and just destroying the building.”
The shop worker added: “It’s just so sad. I used to take the kids here when they were young.
“We held my sister’s 30th birthday party there and my grandson’s first birthday party.
“My sons used to come courting down here. It’s just such a well known and loved place.
“It’s just really sad that this has happened. I think many people will be upset to see it like this.”
Stephanie McNally, aged 27, from Oxley was one of the many people who had come to see the firefighters battle the blaze
She said: “We used to come down here all the time. Not just to bowl, but go on the arcades, go to laser quest.
“It’s where we came to meet people. It’s just really sad, there are a lot if memories here.”
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