FIREFIGHTERS tackling a blaze at a cosmetics factory warehouse in Werrington on Tuesday (14th December) escaped the burning building just minutes before its roof collapsed.
Two firefighters were initially sent in to extinguish the fire at a Potter and Moore Innovations warehouse, off Lincoln Road, Werrington, Peterborough.
But the fire started accelerating at an alarming rate as it came into contact with oil-based products stored in there.
Dogsthorpe and Stanground fire station manager Callum Faint said the pair were ordered to withdraw and they did so in the nick of time, as the roof collapsed just 10 minutes after they left the building.
He said: “The two firefighters, when they first arrived, used hose reels and breathing apparatus to fight the fire from within but it quickly became apparent that their efforts to douse the flames were having no effect.
“The fire was growing and they had to be withdrawn for safety reasons.
“They had carried out their own internal assessment, while we assessed from outside whether the building was showing signs of collapse, we felt they would have been in serious danger so we withdrew them.”
The fire began at around 2.30pm and was caused by sparks flying from a cutting torch being used to prepare the old building for demolition.
Image left: ET reader picture showing the fire from a railway bridge in Bretton.
Efforts to fight the fire were hampered by the cosmetic materials inside, which while not deemed to be “hazardous” by fire crews, added fuel to the fire.
The 12 fire engines also struggled to extinguish the flames due to a lack of water.
Due to the large-scale of the fire, two hydrants situated near to the warehouse were not able to provide enough water for the crews meaning water carriers had to be called in from Huntingdon and RAF Wittering.
A spokeswoman from Potter and Moore said the warehouse was being used as an overflow unit to store materials temporarily.
The cash and carry store on site was unaffected and remains open to the public
An employee of the firm, who did not wish to be named, added: “We were evacuated as soon as the alarms went off and sent home. There are about 100 people working there.”
The Evening Telegraph was inundated with calls and emails on Tuesday afternoon as the fire caused a massive plume of smoke to rise hundreds of feet into the air above the city, which could be seen from miles around – as far as 10 miles away at Sibson Airfield.
Jamie Godwin, who works at the airfield, said he believed the smoke was 1,000 feet tall into the sky and they could see it from the control tower.
He said: “It is right on the approach for Sibson Airfield. We’re not flying at the moment so it is not really affecting us but if we were flying then it would be of consequence given the size of it and its location in relation to our runways.”
Rita McKenzie (74), of Barnes Way, Werrington, said: “We could just see this massive plume of black smoke. It really was a huge fire.”