INVESTIGATIONS are ongoing into the cause of a major blaze in Kendal which burned for around two full days.

Fiefighters left the scene last night for the first time since Saturday (March 7) when flames ripped through five separate units, affecting four businesses at the scene just off Shap Road, causing 'one of the largest fires Kendal had seen for many years'.

Crews from Kendal returned this morning (March 10) to assess the site where no further pockets of fire were identified.

Although the cause of the fire is unknown, it is believed that it started in the independent joiner's workshop, KTS Timber, at the back of the site.

Insurance companies' expert fire investigators are working with Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service to establish what happened.

A spokesperson for the service said investigations were in the 'very early stages' and it was difficult to determine when a conclusion would be drawn.

Employees of Westmorland Glass, Mardix and some of the Furmanite force were back to work yesterday (March 9).

Around 17 seperate crews from across the county from Carlisle and Cockermouth to Barrow and Grange have been in attendance at the site of Furmanite, Mardix, Westmorland Glass and an independent joiner's.

Six engines were there in the first hour.

At one point around 60 firemen from eight fire engines were fighting flames with two aerial ladder platforms, three ground monitor jets and three main jets.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service was called at 8.13pm yesterday (Saturday) after reports of a fire and on arrival crews found smoke coming out of the doors of a building measuring approximately 50 metres by 30 metres attached to Mardix Industrial Controls.

A spokesperson for the service said: "The building was well alight and attendance was increased to eight fire engines and six firefighters in breathing apparatus began using two hose reel jets while two main jets were also used."

At 10.15pm firefighters were forced to withdraw to a safe distance because of the risk of cylinders exploding.

As a result, Cumbria Police and firemen evacuated nearby houses and cordons were set up to stop walkers and cars entering the area.

Officers and crews worked together in the smoke logged streets to wave walkers and drivers away with torches.

A diversion was in place on Appleby Road due to the closure on the A6 between the A685 junction and Mintsfeet Road junction.

Streets around the area were smoke logged and witnesses reported seeing flames 'billow' and 'shoot' into the lit up skies above the town.

Due to the strong force of the wind, smoke was being blown in the direction of the supermarkets and residents were unable to see more than a metre in front of their faces.

Residents in the area were forced to evacuate their homes at around midnight aftergrowing concerns from police and the fire service that cylinders of compressed gas could explode.

David Bradshaw had been staying with his daughter Camilla Burke next door to the site when the police knocked on their door.

"We realised the fire was serious when we saw flames rising at the back of the house. The police told us to move to the front of the house at about 11pm but at 12pm they told us we had to go."

The family was given only 10 minutes to grab any essentials before getting in the car to go.

Friends towards Shap took the family, along with their 95-year-old neighbour, in for the night.

This was the same story for a number of people living in close proximity to the fire on Shap road, although some took refuge in the Duke of Cumberland.

Trevor Crawford, whose wife Liz runs the pub, said: "The police came and asked if we could offer a shelter and we said yes. 

"The Salvation Army and the County Hotel brought blankets and sleeping bags."

Refuge seekers spent the night on sofas in the bar area of the pub and were given teas, coffees and biscuits by staff.

Jonny Gios said he was proud of the community for rallying round in people's hour of need.

The Kendal resident, of Sandylands Methodist Church, gathered outside and provided teas and coffees until around 5am for fire crews and police officers.

He also provided sleeping bags for those taking shelter in the pub.

"People were very upset and were in shock," he said. "They didn't have the chance to get anything and were in their pyjamas.

"There was a great community spirit. There's a sense of shock and numbness but also the sense that we need to rally round these businesses and help them."

Station Manager George Sansom said Westmorland Glass had been damaged by smoke and water only.

Mardix has confirmed its building was fortunate enough to escape the blaze, but their "deepest sympathies" were with those businesses and employees affected.

Mr Healey said three Furmanite units had been caught up in the fire while two others were left unharmed.

One unit, he added, was totally destroyed and two 'may be salvagable'.

The third floor of the worst hit Furmanite building collapsed into the second.

The fire flared up again at around 7.30am yesterday (March 9) due to the chemicals within such as rubber compounds.

Four fire engines were sent out and the blaze was under control within a 'matter of minutes'.

Officers at South Lakeland District Council are in contact with businesses affected by the fire.

Members of the council’s Economic Development team are offering advice and assistance to affected business owners with issues including sourcing temporary accommodation, and officers from the council’s building control services have been at the scene.

The council is also offering practical help with the major clean-up operation that will be required at the site.

Any businesses affected by the fire that would like to discuss how the council could possibly support them at this time can contact Economic Development Manager Joanne Golton (direct line 01539 793276) or Economic Development Officer Jacki Robinson (direct line 01539 793275).