A NEIGHBOUR yesterday praised emergency services for stopping the catastrophic fire at Cycle King from spreading to other buildings.

Music teacher Monica Cuneo lives next door to the cycle shop that was gutted on Easter Sunday.

She was asleep when the fire broke out at about 7.30am and was alerted by a policewoman banging on her door.

Ms Cuneo said: “It was very lucky the police caught it early or it could have spread to the buildings next door, including mine.

“I was asleep when I was woken up by someone banging on the door.

“It turned out to be a policewoman shouting ‘fire’.

“I jumped out of bed and the only thing I thought to take was my viola because I didn’t want to leave it in the flat in case it was destroyed.

“I had to go out on to the street.

“At first the fire was really small – there was only a little smoke coming from the window, but then it became really serious and the firemen had to smash the windows down.” She added: “There’s still a foul smell of burning rubber but it was just lucky nobody was injured.

“I had to stay with friends but I’m relieved to be back now.

“The shop is completely destroyed, all three floors. “I bought my bike at that shop, they were neighbours, I knew them. But they probably won’t be back for months.”

Firefighters finally left Cowley Road yesterday 27 hours after the fire broke out.

More than 70 firefighters worked throughout the day and night making sure the final vestiges of the fire and any burning cinders were out, finally leaving at 11am.

No one was injured in the blaze.

Residents forced to flee the blaze, which destroyed the building and hundreds of bikes, were later told it was safe to return to their flats.

The road reopened yesterday morning with temporary traffic lights put in place. Scaffolding was put up by builders to hold up the shell of the building. A fire and rescue spokesman said: “Our crews will be going back again with thermal imaging cameras to make sure there are not any hot spots in the building.

“Crews were initially faced with a rapidly developing fire with people believed to be trapped in the floors above.

“This, fortunately, was not the case.

“Firefighters had to fight the fire in arduous, difficult and very hot conditions, working hard to prevent the fire spreading to neighbouring properties.”

The police and fire service are continuing to investigate what caused the fire but they believe it not to have been started deliberately.