Residents and businesses in Downham Market have rallied following the destruction of its fire station in a blaze this week.

The town has been left in a state of shock following the destruction of its station and a  year-old appliance in the early hours of last Tuesday.

As the retained crew settles into a temporary new home at the neighbouring police station,  donations, messages of support and offers of help have been pouring in.

Downham Mayor David Sharman said he had been impressed by the community spirit shown in the aftermath and Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service has thanked the town for it commitment to the crew.

A pre-arranged charity car wash due to be held at the station tomorrow can still go ahead after Chris Brown and his wife Wendy offered to host the event at their garage business in Sovereign Way.

Watch manager Kim Scotney  said a number of other businesses had stepped in to offer help, along with the town council, which offered its yard as a venue.

Downham’s Tesco store is also holding a collection for The Firefighters Charity to help raise even more money.

Volunteers and local Air Cadets will also be lending a hand at the car wash.

“The community is being very supportive,” Mr Scotney said.

“Denver church made us up a food parcel with tea and coffee for the firefighters and Tesco has also donated items including electrical goods for the station.

“The car wash was arranged before the fire, but we wanted to still go ahead with it. It’s a bit of a bind, but people are really pulling the stops out.”

Mr Brown, owner of Chris Brown Ltd, said he was pleased to be able to help.

“We saw on the website they were looking for somewhere and we have got our own car washing facilities here. They can use our pressure washer and tea and coffee facilities.

“You never know when you are going to need their services. In Downham, the firefighters are all volunteers.”

Station manager Derek Sim said support from the town had been ‘fantastic’ and was really appreciated by all the crews.

“Although there have been a few who found it funny, most people have been shocked and saddened by what has happened,” he said.

“It is business as usual and we have relocated and put up the base radio mast so we can use the pagers instead of the mobile phones,” he added.

Mr Sim said many residents thought the station was manned by a full-time crew because of the amount of work carried out in the community by the retained members.

“All the crew are local people and known in the town which has really supported us since this happened.

“It has been stressful – everyone turned-out to see the station on fire and they couldn’t get in to rescue their kit or anything.

“It was very frustrating. Personal possessions were lost along with equipment.”

A number of old photographs – some of them irreplaceable- were lost in the fire, but Mr Scotney said a charred board listing long-serving firefighters had been salvaged.

“We have found a few photographs as the main lecture room was not too damaged,” he added. “The frames were damaged, but can be replaced.

“It’s a relatively new station, but it does become part of you.

“Not all the photos can be replaced, but we have our memories. At the moment we are just trying to get back to normality and get used to using the spare appliance.”

In 2003, the Downham crew raised £3,100 for a new thermal imaging camera with its take on the ‘Full Monty’ and Mr Scotney said further fundraising could take place in future, with a fund for the station also a possibility.

Mr Sharman, town mayor, remarked how quickly fire cover had been put in place after the blaze.

“Downham is getting bigger but the fire station facilities have stayed the same. This might be the right time to have a reappraisal of what we need in Downham Market. I think out of the ashes we might get something to happen.”