Shoppers were led down a fire escape to safety after a blaze broke out in Bradford city centre.

A passing police patrol car spotted the fire which started in a window display at Carter's, in Ivegate.

Two police officers radioed for the fire service then helped evacuate the building, which contains a wool shop, a gun shop, a coffee shop and a model shop.

Customers from the second floor coffee shop were led down the fire escape. No-one was injured.

It is believed a light fitting in the window fell on a display of wool in a shop front.

Station Officer Nigel Hotson, of Bradford fire station, said: "If this had happened at night, when no shoppers or traffic were about, a lot more damage would have been caused."

Seventeen firefighters tackled the blaze at 4.20pm yesterday and spent more than two hours at the scene.

David Fisher, 18, of Eccleshill, was buying an air pistol in the ground-floor gun shop when he spotted the fire.

The owner, Michael Rutter, called the fire brigade while Mr Fisher tried to put out the blaze.

Mr Fisher said: "I tried to get the fire extinguisher on it, but it was getting too hot. We just rushed straight out of the building.

"It only took about three minutes for it to really go up."

Mr Rutter, who has owned the gun shop for two years, said thousands of pounds of damage had been caused.

He said: "I saw the fire in the window's reflection.

"Some stock has been destroyed. But I will be carrying on with the business."

Robert Carter, whose family owns the building and sub-lets it out to businesses, said: "At the moment I've no idea what the damage is, but we will be open again as soon as possible."

Station Officer Hotson said: "The fire was going quite ferociously at ground-floor level.

"The staircase is quite extensively damaged and there is damage to the shop front.

"The rest of the building has a lot of smoke damage."

Converted for the new archive on 30 June 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.