Fire wrecks family business

A BUSINESS owner has told of his devastation after watching his livelihood burn to the ground.

A BUSINESS owner has told of his devastation after watching his livelihood burn to the ground.

Kevin Ager, who runs a family business supplying toilet equipment and cleaning products from Brockley Green near Haverhill, looked on in horror as his stockroom premises went up in flames today.

But he praised firefighters who managed to stop the situation escalating further by preventing flames spreading to a highly explosive gas cylinder in a nearby building by his house.

The drama unfolded in Simms Lane at around 11.30am when his son, returning from university, pulled up to hear what he thought were shooting noises, which turned out to be explosions in the business unit.

After he alerted the fire service they arrived to find plumes of smoke billowing out of the building and a further explosion as aerosol cans caught alight.

An exclusion zone of around 200 metres was setup by police after it was realised a highly explosive acetylene cylinder in an adjacent outbuilding posed a major threat to people's safety.

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Mr Ager, 52, who had been out on a delivery in Sudbury for his company Alchem East Anglia Ltd, said: “We have been going about four years from here - it is an established business and we have done well.

“Last month was one of our best months ever and things were really picking up and I cannot believe it, I really cannot believe it has happened.

“I just hope they can tell me the cause - I have no idea.”

He said the stock, including toilet rolls and floor polish, was covered on his insurance policy but the building itself was not.

Of the situation with the nearby gas cylinder, kept from an engineering business for repairs they do for local farmers, the father of three said: “I just could not bear to think of the consequences of the whole thing.

“It is a godsend the wind was blowing the other way.”

Pat Dacey, a group manager at Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said when they arrived the building was 100% alight with aerosols exploding.

“The risk was acetylene stored on a third building, so firefighting priorities were to stop the fire spreading to the adjacent building containing acetylene cyclinders.

“We stopped that and were able to bring this to a fairly successful conclusion - as far as having a carbonaceous based fire.”

The operation to dowse the flames involved 40 firefighters using a turntable ladder from Bury St Edmunds and two water bowsers, one from Sudbury and one from Newmarket. An investigation into the cause is now underway at the site.