The battle to save the facade of a 17th century building which was ravaged by fire began last night.

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Cupola House, home to Strada restaurant, in The Traverse, Bury St Edmunds, has suffered major structural collapse as a result of the blaze which was still smouldering last night after taking hold on Saturday.

At about 8pm a 40-tonne, long-reach crane began removing up to a quarter of the facade in a bid to prevent any more of the Grade I listed building from collapsing.

Station commander Ken Williamson, of Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said they would be working to extinguish any hot spots revealed.

“They will try to take the building down as delicately as they can,” he said. “We are going to try to leave as much in place as we can and remove the unsafe part of the structure.”

Once the fire had taken hold there was a significant structural collapse to the rear of the five-storey building and the front facade buckled.

The front of the building became increasingly unstable throughout yesterday, a Suffolk County Council spokesman said.

People have spoken of their “devastation” about the damage.

Paul Romaine, who renovated the building from 2003-04 before selling it to Strada, said: “The facade, if it can be saved, that would be wonderful, but even if it cannot there were some features on the facade such as the bosses and the listed balcony that could be retained, and this is a perfect opportunity on this site to re-create something for the town that pays homage to the original building, but takes on a contemporary twist.”

Last night’s salvage operation followed a meeting of interested parties including the fire service, structural engineers and the local authorities.

An English Heritage spokesman said it was in discussions with St Edmundsbury Borough Council about the next steps “but these will depend upon a thorough appraisal of the condition of the building and how much historic fabric may potentially be salvageable”.

Firefighters are expected to be at the scene for a number of days. The blaze is not believed to be suspicious. A full investigation is taking place.

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