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BT's Bluebell Hill exchange in Chatham, Kent, caught fire on Wednesday, putting 20,000 lines in jeopardy.

The blaze began at around 11am and caused extensive damage to the power room, though the actual telecoms gear escaped relatively unscathed. When the mains was lost, back-up generators quickly cut-in, but were themselves consumed by the flames.

Battery power waned through the afternoon, and phone and broadband punters using the exchange gradually lost service. Engineers were able to assess the damage once fire chiefs declared the building safe several hours later. A mobile diesel generator was shipped in and lines were juiced back up early on Thursday.

Techies continue to monitor Bluebell Hill for "wrinkles" in the network. BT is still counting the cost of the fire, and cannot say when a permanent power supply will be restored.

Investigations by BT, its electricity supplier EDF and the fire brigade are ongoing. A spokesman for BT told The Reg there is no indication of suspicious circumstances at this stage.

Chatham is, of course, famed as the mothership for the so-called "chav phenomenon", whereby everyone has a good laugh at poor people for swearing, pushing prams, wearing hoodies and driving souped-up Vauxhall Novae. ®

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