WITNESSES today described the terrifying sound as fire ripped through a Southsea dry cleaning store.
More than 40 firefighters worked to get the fire at Impress Dry Cleaners, near to the Bold Forester pub, under control.
The fire took hold at the Albert Road premises shortly before 6am, it took until 9.30am for the blaze to dampen down.
The road was closed between Waverley Road and Bristol Road by police to allow the emergency services – including Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s aerial platform ladder – to work.
Neighbours reported a series of bangs sounding similar to gunshots as the blaze erupted.
Sally Barker, 43, who lives in nearby Leopold Street, said: ‘The noise of the blaze woke me up at around 6am.
‘It sounded like three gunshots - bang, bang, bang! I don’t know how well started the fire was by then but I looked out of my bedroom window and could see firefighters in the road.’
Her daughter, Hermione Troke, 12, said: ‘I was really scared. I turned on the lights to see what was going on and there were lots of firefighters in the road.’
The loud bangs could be heard from several streets aways.
Scott Horton, 45, from Edmund Road, Southsea, heard the commotion.
He said: ‘I honestly thought it was gun shots going off. It was like pop, pop, pop. It was unbelievable. It’s such a shame for a local business just before Christmas.’
Michael Fisher, 45, from Eastney, owns the garages behind the unit and was nervously waiting for information as to the damage.
Matt Keam, 39, from Napier Road, came to see the incident.
He said: ‘I have never seen anything like this in Albert Road before. It is a bit of a shock. I hope that everyone is alright.’
Watch manager Jason Boh, from Southsea fire station, said the noises could have been caused by the structure of the fire as it took hold.
He said 10 crews from across Hampshire worked hard to keep the fire under control and stop it spreading through the roof space to neighbouring properties.
He said: ‘It was quite a serious fire, in that we needed to control it and keep it away from other buildings. It was quite ferocious in there – there was a lot of heat and damage and lots of smoke.’
He said that the occupants of the flat above the dry cleaners had evacuated by the time the fire crews arrived. Nobody is believed to be hurt.
An investigation is underway as to what caused the fire.