A BLAZE in Pontypool town centre which gutted a charity shop and flats above it on Friday morning was accidental, the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service said yesterday.

The fire destroyed the St David’s Foundation charity shop on the ground floor of the building on Hanbury Road and wrecked two floors of flats above it.

Fifty firefighters from across Gwent were called to deal with the fire at about 1.15am on Friday.

But it wasn't until 5pm that Hanbury Road finally reopened to traffic, with residents reporting tailbacks leading back to Crumlin Road.

Fire engines attended the blaze from New Inn, Cwmbran, Abersychan, Cardiff, Maindee and Abercarn and stayed at the building for much of Friday.

A man, believed to be over 60, was rescued from the flat on the second floor as flames tore through the building.

Despite managing to bring the fire under control at about 1.50am on Friday, 35 firefighters remained at the building during the day to dampen it down. Smoke could still be seen rising from the building eight hours after the fire had broken out.

Any further cause for the fire is still being investigated.

Massive disruption was caused in the town after the fire. The nearby Lloyds Bank was closed and the main road was shut in both directions. Buses travelling in and out of Pontypool were disrupted and the Civic Centre car park was also closed.

Eyewitnesses said the fire had started again at 9.15am after the fire relit and smoke poured out of a second floor window.

But a Torfaen council spokesman told the South Wales Argus on Friday that the building was structurally sound and that there was no reason for demolishing it following the damage.

The flats above the shop are managed by Melin Homes and the man over 60 is thought to be one of their tenants. A Melin Homes spokesman said the man was “overcome by smoke”, was taken to hospital and was recovering well.

Of the flats’ other residents, five were with friends or family, while another five were taken to the company’s offices as their sorted out temporary accommodation.

While the manager of the St David’s charity shop, Zdenka Beattie, said she was relieved no one was seriously hurt in the fire but that it was devastating to see the building in such a state. She said the shop had nine volunteers who would help out there.