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This is the dramatic moment a DIY store burst in to flames during a suspicious fire last night (Thursday February 23).

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About 50 firefighters tackled the blaze at Start to Finish, in Wrotham Road, Gravesend, which started at about 8.30pm, while 60 people had to be evacuated from nearby homes and flats above adjoining shops and across the road.

The two-storey building was badly damaged, while the roof caved in and large panes of glass crashed on to a car parked outside,

Firefighters spent eight hours putting out the flames and Wrotham Road is still closed from Zion Place to Trafalgar Road.

Guru Ponnushany, 43, who has owned nearby East West Food and Wine for 10 years, said: “A friend I was talking with in the shop left and I went to put cardboard outside and as he walked near to the shop there was a blast noise. Then the glass pane fell out, he rushed back as flames started coming out. It was very powerful, we are gald no-one was walking past, he was very lucky a second later he would have been directly outside.

“I was worried for my shop but luckily the firefightes got it under control quickly and moved people out.”

Heather Wilson, 23, was evacuated from the flats opposite with her daughter Ava, who is eight-months-old.

Speaking as she returned this morning, she said: “I heard this explosion, the whole room lit up orange and I looked out to see the burning building.

“I immediately called 999 and went in to another flat as mine was very close. The room still smells of smoke.”

Witnesses reported gas cylinders at the site exploding.

As the road remained closed this morning ash covered nearby cars and gas engineers worked to make the scene safe.

Where you affected email michael.adkins@archant.co.uk

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