Ware­house de­stroyed in huge blaze

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - FRONT PAGE - by Mike Ben­nett

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.

Eye­wit­nesses

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.”

Pic­ture Gary Browne

The ware­house was de­stroyed in a huge blaze, which is be­lieved to have been started de­lib­er­ately

Pic­ture Gary Browne

Crews dampen down at the scene

Pic­ture Stan Hollingsworth

Fire­fight­ers tack­ling the fire at a ware­house in Ash­ford

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