Part of Belfast city centre was cordoned off for most of yesterday as 40 firefighters tackled a huge blaze at a shop that burned for over 11 hours.
Police spotted the fire at B&M Bargains on Rosemary Street while during a routine patrol of the area just after 5am.
The shop was extensively damaged when flames ripped through the first floor of the three-storey property.
Neighbouring outlets were also badly smoke damaged.
At the height of the incident 10 fire appliances, two aerial platforms, a command support unit and 40 firefighters were involved in tackling the blaze.
The incident ended at around 4pm.
Smoke billowed out into the surrounding area and a number of nearby shops were closed and cordoned off as a precaution during the blaze.
Stores including HMV, Game and Caffe Nero were closed and crowds could be seen gathering yesterday morning to watch attempts to put out the blaze.
Speaking yesterday morning Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service group commander Dermot Rooney said it was quite a big fire, with the building well alight and quite badly damaged.
A spokesman for the fire service later said it was too early to establish the cause of the fire, adding that an investigation will be undertaken.
They issued a statement at 4.15pm to say the blaze had been extinguished.
“The cordon has now been reviewed and members of the public and business owners can now access the arcade,” a spokesman said.
“It is likely that firefighters will remain at the scene for the next few hours. At this stage it’s too early to determine the cause of the fire and an investigation will begin in due course.”
He said: “Throughout the day firefighters worked in challenging conditions and prevented the fire spreading to the adjacent buildings and contained the fire on the first floor of the three-storey premises.”
Even after the lengthy incident was over, four fire appliances, a command support unit and a high volume pump remained at the scene to dampen down hotspots.
Neil Keery, who works in Jessops on nearby High Street, said the smoke was billowing out from Rosemary Street as he arrived at work around 9am.
He described the building as looking as if it had been very badly damaged, although the fire was contained to the first floor.
“There were around 20 to 30 people standing watching all that was happening this morning,” he said.
“And I would estimate another 20 staff evacuated.
“A colleague of mine who was walking by at around 7am saw the flames.”