Police evacuated 18 residents of an historic neighbourhood in the southern Norwegian city of Kristiansand early Tuesday morning, as firefighters battled to control a blaze that threatened to spread. Two wooden buildings were badly damaged.
The fire broke out just before 6am in the city’s Posebyen district, which features Northern Europe’s longest rows of old wooden houses, many from the 1700s. It’s located in the eastern portion of the city’s downtown area that’s laid out like a grid and known as Kvadraturen.
‘Didn’t take any chances’
One of the homes on the street called Holbergs Gate ended up being overcome by flames, which spread to the attached home next door. By 7:30am, firefighters had managed to contain the blaze to Holbergs Gate 46 and 48, and all residents were safely evacuated, along with many neighbours. No injuries were reported.
“The houses are all attached in this neighbourhood,” Kjell Iveland, leader of the emergency response, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “Therefore we don’t take any chances, and evacuate all residents of nearby addresses.” Residents of buildings on both Skippergata and Henrik Wergelands Gate also had to flee their homes.
Posebyen is Kristiansand’s oldest district, with many well-preserved wooden buildings. It’s not the first time they’ve been hit by fire, with NRK reporting that one of the two addresses also burned 39 years ago. A fire at Holbergs Gate 48 on October 16, 1974 was considered serious and emergency crews work hard to save the historic, mostly two-story structures.
“This is scary,” one of the evacuated residents, Paal Bernhard Asbjørnsen, told NRK. “We have been warned, and have automatic warnings systems in our house, but we have been very worried about fire.” Another couple in a house adjacent to those on fire were awakened by firefighters pounding on their door. Neighbours helped them carry art and other valuable items out of their home, for fear it would also be consumed by flames.
“Our house is from the end of the 1700s,” homeowner Gunvald Opstad told NRK. “It’s one of the best-preserved and has so many fine details. It would have been very sad if it burned down.” She and her husband have owned the home since 1985 and done much of the restoration work themselves.
Firefighters had Tuesday’s blaze under control by mid-morning, aided by a fortunate absence of wind after weeks of stormy weather. It’s the latest in a string of recent fires in historic neighbourhoods of cities including Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim, with the weeks around Christmas considered high season because of increased use of candles and fireplaces. No cause of the fire in Kristiansand had been determined.