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Gallery/Video: “It was just like a bomb had gone off” – 70 firefighters tackle Lady Lane Industrial Estate fire in Hadleigh and protect 20 tonnes of chemicals within

PUBLISHED: 11:14 28 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:33 29 October 2014

The blaze at the Lady Lane industrial estate in Hadleigh

Photo: Nigel Slator

The blaze at the Lady Lane industrial estate in Hadleigh Photo: Nigel Slator

Archant

Firefighters stopped 20 tonnes of household chemicals being involved in a major blaze at a Hadleigh industrial estate earlier today.

Crews were first called at around 5.50am to Lady Lane Industrial Estate when the fire started at the premises of Challs International Ltd and Primo Manufacturing Ltd.

But on arrival the severity of the fire was uncovered with dozens more firefighters called to the scene. At the fire’s peak a total of 70 firefighters and 16 appliances were in attendance.

As thick black smoke billowed out of the building fire chiefs told police, who had now closed the industrial estate, to warn homeowners to close their windows and doors.

Ian Bowell, area commander for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said: “There were 20 tonnes of chemicals at the rear of the premises that needed to be protected and so we setup to stop the fire from spreading. Fork lift trucks from neighbouring businesses were used to remove the chemicals pallet by pallet.

The fire at Lady Lane Industrial Estate, HadleighThe fire at Lady Lane Industrial Estate, Hadleigh

“The cause is unknown at this time; clearly we would like to speak to anyone who saw anything, eyewitnesses who were in the area at the time.”

The fire took hold of the building’s front office and at the production line behind it – an area which would still have contained some chemicals. But the major concern was to stop the fire from spreading to the warehouse containing the 20 tonnes of chemicals.

Mr Bowell said there were fears if the nine different types of chemicals at the rear had caught alight they would have released acid, making the area treacherous for his fire crews.

One of the key initial jobs was to isolate the mains gas supply, Mr Bowell added.

The fire at Lady Lane Industrial Estate, HadleighThe fire at Lady Lane Industrial Estate, Hadleigh

Graham Burchell, the companies’ managing director, was called to the scene when a member of staff’s relative saw smoke coming from the building.

He said: “By the time I got on to the site at 6.30am the whole thing was a blaze and there was a lot of smoke, at that stage firefighters were putting out the fire.

“Clearly I am in shock but it is one of those things that as a business you have in the back of your mind – it could happen. We have contingency plans and we will look to get up and running on one of our other sites tomorrow.

“We have got our computer records backed up off site, so they are safe. We will have to deal with the devastation of the building – the roof has gone, so everything has gone.

Firefighters at the scene of the fire in Hadleigh. Photo: Mark Eley, Suffolk Fire and Rescue ServiceFirefighters at the scene of the fire in Hadleigh. Photo: Mark Eley, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service

“One of the biggest concerns is a mezzanine floor which I suspect has gone – that gave quite a lot of support to the structure of the building.”

The companies’ employ 55 people with 45 of them working across five buildings on the industrial estate.

Mr Burchell added: “The firefighters have obviously done an amazing job; they are very skilful at what they do. The important thing is that no-one was working there and everyone is safe.”

Donald Leeks, 61, had been on his way to work at the industrial estate’s label-making Richard Ching & Son business when he came across the fire.

Firefighters at the scene of the fire in Hadleigh Photo: Mark Eley, Suffolk Fire and Rescue ServiceFirefighters at the scene of the fire in Hadleigh Photo: Mark Eley, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service

He said: “It was just like a bomb had gone off – really black thick smoke and the flames came out quite high as well.”

Fire crews are expected to remain at the scene for much of the day, damping down and extinguishing hot spots.

The B1070, Lady Lane had been partially blocked as a result of the fire. There were also delays in both directions between the A1071 Ipswich Road junction and the Green junction.

To see a video of the fire click here.

Lady Lane Industrial Estate Fire. Photo: Mark Eley, Suffolk Fire and Rescue ServiceLady Lane Industrial Estate Fire. Photo: Mark Eley, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service

The Lady Lane Industrial Estate was the scene of another major fire in 2012 when 50 firefighters attended a blaze involving three fuel tankers.

For a video interview with Mr Burchell about the fire click here.

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