Video: Massive fire closes roads and rail services

PUBLISHED: 11:04 26 February 2008 | UPDATED: 08:22 02 June 2010

Photography By Brian Purdy

Photography By Brian Purdy

MEMBERS of the public living and working in the western side of Norfolk are being warned today (February 26) that a large plume of smoke emanating from a warehouse fire in Whittlesey could reach the county.

Firefighters work hard to try and extinguish the blaze. Photography By Brian Purdy

MEMBERS of the public living and working in the western side of Norfolk are being warned today (February 26) that a large plume of smoke emanating from a warehouse fire in Whittlesey could reach the county.

The fire, which started at the Abbey Produce premises in Funtham’s Lane in King’s Dyke on the outskirts of Whittlesey yesterday morning, continues to be monitored by a number of Cambridgeshire agencies including fire, police, county and local councils, the environment agency and the health protection agency.

Readers photo by Richard Hayes

The fire is being left to burn itself out in a controlled environment and the volume of smoke has reduced by around a third but continues to gather in a plume. With a change in wind direction from yesterday, the plume is expected to travel eastwards over Whittlesey towards March throughout the course of the day.

The advice to members of the pubic is:

Any smoke can be an irritant and as such people are advised to avoid being in the plume.

Residents affected by the smoke should remain indoors and keep their doors and windows closed.

Motorists who have to travel through the plume should keep windows closed, turn off air conditioning and keep air vents closed.

Today firemen were still at the scene but workers at McCain’s have been allowed back to work.

Investigators are still probing the cause of the blaze.

More than 70 fire-fighters battled throughout the day and into the night to bring a massive fire under control which had ripped through a Fenland warehouse.

The fire at the Abbey Produce premises at Funtham’s Lane, King’s Dyke on the outskirts of Whittlesey caused chaos on the roads and trains and residents had to remain indoors as a huge thick black flume of smoke filled the air for miles around.

Crews from across Cambridgeshire had to battle for hours to bring the blaze at a factory on the A605 under control.

Fire chiefs said the inferno was one of the biggest the county had ever seen and fire-fighters used all their resources to control it.

The fire was reported at 7.30am today and although it was under control by lunchtime, fire-fighters continued to fight it through the night.

The thick black plume of smoke caused chaos to the train services in the area and thousands of passengers were forced to use buses which were hastily laid on.

Services were cancelled overnight and were due to be reviewed again on Tuesday morning as fire-fighters felt it was unsafe for trains as the plume of smoke still covered over part of the track.

The brigade had set up six static jets or "ground monitors" to keep water on the fire.

A spokeswoman for the fire service, said: “There was a co-ordinated multi-agency response to this incident, including fire-fighters, police, local and county councils and the Environment Agency amongst others and 75 fire-fighters were at the scene.”

Trains had to be halted after Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service have put up an exclusion zone around the fire.

Rail services which run from Ely and Peterborough had been stopped following a fire at the potato storage depot, which provides potatoes for the nearby McCain’s chip company.

Cross Country Trains, East Midlands Trains and One railway were all affected by the blaze and had to provide alternative bus services, as all trains terminated at either Ely or March or Peterborough.

A spokeswoman for One, said: “We are very sorry for the inconvenience; we are working to reduce the impact on passengers.

“We are being guided by the fire service as to when it is safe to operate the trains again.”

Witnesses said the smoke can be seen as far away as Thetford and King’s Lynn.

Residents worried by the smoke were told to stay indoors and keep their windows closed, and cordons were set up by the emergency services.

More than 250 workers at the Hanson brickworks were evacuated after fire chiefs ordered them to be sent home.

Michael Auckland, who works at Hanson, said he started work at 6am today and heard “faint bangs, but I knew they were explosions. I saw flames shooting up the air and saw the fire engines arrive.”

Another worker said: “After the first flames started shooting up there were big pieces of insulation material coming down from the fire and also wooden pallets which had caught fire.

“You could smell the fumes.”

Richard Hayes of Hassock Way, Wimblington, added: “We could see the smoke as we travelled to work and I thought it can’t be our place’. As we got nearer the smoke got thicker.

“When we got there I was helping to move some vehicles and after just a few minutes you could taste the smoke, it was really bad. “The fire seemed to spread very quickly, when we first got there at about 7.40am a third of the building had been destroyed and then not long afterwards about two thirds of the building had gone.”

Please send us your own photos of the blaze to webdesk@cambstimes.co.uk

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