Warehouse destroyed in huge blaze
HUNDREDS of onlookers gathered to watch a huge blaze that destroyed a warehouse on an industrial estate in Ashford.
Residents feared they would have to evacuate their homes as the suspicious fire gutted the warehouse on the Wotton Trading Estate in Austin Road on Monday night.
People took to the streets to watch as the major incident unfolded. Among them were residents from the Hampden estate in south Ashford.
Residents were aware the blazing plastics storage depot was close to the Russell Labo- ratories base, where chemicals are kept.
Emergency services were alerted shortly before 9pm and 10 crews from Ashford, Charing, Aldington and Folkestone were quickly at the scene.
More than 60 firefighters were involved in tackling the blaze.
Seven teenagers, aged between 14 and 17, were arrested on suspicion of arson but later released on police bail.
Kent Fire & Rescue Service set up a control command unit at the scene.
The surrounding area was cordoned off as specialist hazardous chemical officers, fire investigators and a Red Cross victim support unit were called in, although no injuries were reported.
High rise pumps were used to cool chemical tanks and prevent any chance of the blaze spreading to adjacent businesses, including a furniture factory.
After working through the night there was another scare on Tuesday morning when a gas pipe fractured and the supply to the destroyed building had to be cut as fire crews continued to damp down.
Eyewitnesses spoke of their fears during the night.
Sylvia Tutt, who cares for her 99-year-old mother Annie in nearby Hampden Road, said: “Everybody was out in the street and frightened as the wind was blowing the 40-feet high flames in our direction.
“With the chemical factory next door we really thought we would all have to be evacuated.”
Doreen Beach watched the scene from her home in nearby Kingsnorth Road.
She said: “It was spectacular and there were crowds of people on the streets watching and fearing the worst as it was in the unit next to the chemical tanks.”
Wendy Osborne was at her Austin Road home when she smelled plastic burning and heard crackling that she first thought was fireworks.
She said: “I went out and it was just thick black smoke and flames that went on all night. We were told to stay inside with the doors and windows closed and that they would knock us up if we had to be evacuated.
“It was so frightening as it was next door to the chemical factory.”
Police arrested seven youths on suspicion of arson.
A 14-year-old girl and six youths, two aged 14, one 15, one 16 and two aged 17, were detained and questioned at Ashford police station.
They were all later released on police bail while officers make further inquiries.
The premises were used as the base for kitchen catering suppliers Leon Jaeggi but noone from the company was available for comment following the fire.
Stuart Baldy, a spokesman for the owners of the building, said yesterday: “We are awaiting structural engineers to report but it appears the building is completely destroyed.”
The warehouse was destroyed in a huge blaze, which is believed to have been started deliberately
Crews dampen down at the scene
Firefighters tackling the fire at a warehouse in Ashford