FIREFIGHTERS smashed through a restaurant front door to tackle a blaze.
Four crews from Stamford, Bourne and Market Deeping battled the flames at a Fratelli Ristorante in St Mary’s Hill, Stamford, at about 5.30pm.
Police closed off St Mary’s Hill while firefighters tackled the blaze which created rush hour congestion in the surrounding streets.
The restaurant and its first floor have been damaged by the flames and smoke.
The fire was caused by a discarded cigarette.
Neighbouring trader David Hollands raised the alarm after seeing flames in an upstairs window at the back of the restaurant.
Mr Hollands, who owns Stamford Music Shop, said: “There were flames in the window and the glass was cracking.
“The firefighters went in the front door with a sledge hammer.
“If I hadn’t noticed it, it would have kept going.”
Firefighters have been praised by shop owners in the area for dealing with the blaze.
Staff at nearby St Mary’s Books and Prints were allowed to stay open until 6pm but were concerned about the spread of fire along the historic buildings.
Owner Marcus Tyers said: “They did quite well to get it out so quickly, I was concerned at one point, it doesn’t take a lot for fire to spread.”
He added: “The traffic was horrendous, I was trying to get to a football match in Nottingham and I couldn’t get out of Stamford.
“It was jam packed.”
The restaurant owners were unavailable for comment.