SHOPS and flats in York city centre were evacuated after a fire above a bakery.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said a call was received at just after 12.30pm today, after reports of a flat fire in Colliergate.

Seven fire crews were called to the scene.

Kings Square was cordoned off by the fire service as they dealt with the fire, which broke out above the Cornish Bakery shop.

Eleanor Rodriguez, a student in the city, said: "There was a huge billow of brown smoke about 15 minutes ago, going into the sky and down into side streets.

"I heard that a shop had been evacuated, and firefighters were going into the building via the bakery."

Ms Rodriguez said she had seen firefighters wearing breathing apparatus entering the building, but had not seen any sign of casualties.

Tony Bewick, assistant manager of The Cornish Bakery, said the fire happened at about 12.30pm, and he went to the second floor of the building and "got a billow of smoke in my face".

He said: "I went downstairs and told my team there was a fire and we've got to get everyone out."

Four members of staff at the bakery then evacuated the customers, and alerted neighbouring businesses Barnitts, Your Move estate agency and other neighbouring flats.

Mr Bewick said he did not know what caused the fire, but the second floor is mainly used for storage.

One of the members of staff said: "We saw the smoke coming out of the second floor window.

"Someone told us the flames were pretty big, and there was a smoke cloud coming out of the roof. It was startling, we're more shocked than frightened. With something like this, the first thing you think of is the customers and the neighbours."

York Press:

Nearby store Barnitts was also evacuated and director Chris Snowden said: "We got everyone out and we have closed the shop. Everyone's safe and there was no panic."

The cordon has since been lifted and a spokesman for North Yorkshire Fire Service said: "The three storey premises suffered extensive fire damage to its first and second floors.

"Hosereel jets were used to extinguish the fire which was believed to have started in an extractor fan due to an electrical fault. Fire crews also isolated the electrical supply, used a positive pressure fan to ventilate adjacent properties and carried out salvage operations."

Steve Grocutt, founder and owner of the Cornish Bakery said: "Unfortunately a fire occurred at one of our York bakeries this afternoon, but all procedures were swiftly activated and followed, and we are thankful that no-one in our team, or in the vicinity was hurt, in any way.

"We are working closely with the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to identify the cause.

"Our popular Colliergate bakery will be closed over the next few weeks whilst we repair the damage and our much valued team members will either be relocated within our network, or will have their salaries covered so this does not inconvenience them in any way.

"The Cornish Bakery team wishes to thank the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service for their swift work today, and would also like to thank all of our neighbours and customers for their help and support following this unfortunate incident.

"Our nearby Coney Street bakery is fully open for our customers and friends, and remains unaffected."