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  1. Malcolm Robertson

20 years on: the fire that destroyed one of our biggest libraries

It is exactly 20 years ago that fire destroyed one of the region's biggest libraries.

August 1st 1994 is a day those in the centre of Norwich will never forget.

Tens of thousands of books and documents were lost as firefighters took eight hours to bring the blaze under control - but thankfully priceless records and manuscripts were saved.

The scene back in 1994. Credit: ITV News Anglia

David Ashworth was one of the 200 firefighters drafted in to deal with the emergency. It's just about one of the biggest incidents he's had to tackle.

"It was a massive fire and it was going to be a very difficult decision to commit breathing apparatus crews to it because ,virtually the entire front of the library was fully alight."

– David Ashworth
Norwich library on fire Credit: ITV News Anglia

The fire was started by an electrical fault. At the time, Dennis Whitehead was a local photographer. He remembers getting the call from his office.

"As I drove into Norwich there was just this plume of smoke visible for miles, The thing I remember most was hearing the number of sirens as fire engines from all over the county descended on the city and I can still hear them today, the sound resonating as they drove through the city to get there."

– Dennis Whitehead

Thankfully vital documents which were stored in the basement survived.

In its place now is Norwich's eye-catching Forum - a £65m project completed in 2001 to mark the Millennium.

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