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Toxic fumes hospitalise 12 firefighters

PUBLISHED: 15:01 15 May 2003 | UPDATED: 13:52 03 March 2010

Noxious fumes bellowing into the air during a farm fire left a dozen firefighters needing hospital treatment today.

The blaze at from the farm in north Suffolk occurred when a barn containing chemical fertiliser caught fire.

Noxious fumes bellowing into the air during a farm fire left a dozen firefighters needing hospital treatment today.

The blaze at from the farm in north Suffolk occurred when a barn containing chemical fertiliser caught fire.

Three crews from Beccles, Bungay, and Halesworth attended shortly after midnight this morning where a large barn containing ten metric tonnes of hazardous ammonium nitrate was on fire.

A warning was issued to people living near the blaze at Pound Farm, in Redisham Road, Ringsfield, near Beccles, to be wary of possible effects on their health.

Deputy chief fire officer Ken Seager said: "The first crew to arrive immediately called for further assistance as the barn was fully engulfed in flames and in danger of collapse. It was emitting large quantities of brown smoke."

At 1.30am the crew asked for health advice after complaining of sore throats and an ambulance took the 12 firefighters to the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston for a check up. One was retained for further tests but the others were all released just after 6am.

The fire was extinguished by 2am. Health and safety inspectors were at the scene to carry out a thorough investigation.

Nearby residents were not evacuated but they have been warned that if they notice any symptoms such as sore throats, itchy eyes, nausea or a feeling similar to being drunk to contact their doctor or go to hospital.

Police officers attended to block off the road and diversions were installed to keep traffic away from the scene. These were today expected to remain in place throughout the day until the fumes had dispersed.

Eyewitness Verity Montagu, who lives just next door to the farm, said: "It was a horrible thing to happen. I heard the fire snapping and popping at around 12.30am. When I looked out of my window I saw the barn ablaze. At this stage it looked more like a firework display."

"It was a barn full of the best hay the farm had. There is nothing left, everything has gone."

This morning the remains were still smouldering with a fire crew keeping an eye on it.

The cause is not yet known as it is not yet safe for police to investigate.

Suffolk police are appealing for witnesses or anyone with any information to contact them 01473 613500.

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