A RESTAURANT and four flats were badly damaged by a major fire in the centre of a North Yorkshire town.

At the height of the blaze at the Prezzo restaurant in Albert Street, Harrogate, eighteen fire crews and about 90 fire fighters were at the scene.

No-one is thought to have been hurt in the incident, but a spokeswoman for North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said several small pets, such as hamsters, rabbits and cats, were unaccounted for.

Smoke pouring from the building led to nearby businesses and residents being urged to keep all windows and doors closed.

The incident was first reported as a kitchen fire at about 11.40am and was believed to have started in a extraction fan or ducting.

By 1.30pm the fire had spread to the first floor of the three-storey building and Station Parade had to be temporarily closed.

Firefighters wearing breathing apparatus were withdrawn from inside the building as the fire spread and used water jets to fight the blaze from the outside, through the windows, but by 3pm the flames had reached the roof.

At 8.30pm the fire service said the incident had been scaled down, although crews would remain at the scene overnight dampening down hotspots.