A SERIOUS incident at a Tavistock bank has left the building severely damaged and could force its closure to the public for several weeks.

A fire started in the early hours of Tuesday morning in the TSB offices in Bedford Square, causing heat and smoke damage to the ground floor of the three-storey building.

Police and two fire crews from Tavistock station attended at 3.20am and found all windows on the ground floor were heavily smoke logged.

Subsequently, further crews were called to attend from Yelverton and Bere Alston, as well as the incident command unit from Totnes.

At around 4.20am firefighters located the fire within the rear of the building on the ground floor and used four sets of breathing apparatus, one ladder, one thermal imaging camera, two safety jets and one hose reel jet to tackle the fire.

The fire, which was believed to have started within a paper shredder, was extinguished at 5am and a positive pressure ventilation fan was used to extract the smoke from the building. Crews found the first and second floors to be clear of smoke.

The officer in charge of the incident, Glenn Arundel from Tavistock Fire Station, said four pumps were called due to the seriousness of the fire: 'The ground floor was severely damaged by heat and smoke and the building will be out of use for a few weeks due to the amount of damage.

'The cause, we believe, was a fault within a paper shredding machine.'

A spokesperson from TSB said: 'We are currently assessing the damage to the TSB Tavistock branch and will update the local community as we get more details on the extent of the damage.

'We appreciate the impact this will have on our customers and are working to re-open the branch as soon as possible.

'For customers wishing to visit a branch, our nearest branches are at Crownhill, Ford, Plymouth Armada Way and Okehampton. Customers are also able to bank with TSB online or over the phone.'

l Picture by James Bird