Hotpoint reveals huge clean-up operation after blaze causes £2m worth of damage at Peterborough trailer park

It was the talk of Peterborough - a fire at Hotpoint which not only gutted 52 trailers, causing around £2 million of damage, but caused a huge cloud of smoke to dominate Peterborough's skyline.

Friday, 6th September 2019, 5:10 pm
Damage to a trailer at Hotpoint in Woodston. Photo: David Lowndes

Yet while the fire which burned spectacularly was quickly extinguished thanks to great work from our city's firefighters (and from many who travelled from further afield) it left a clean-up operation which will take far longer to complete.

A week on from the dramatic scenes at the home goods company's trailer park off Shrewsbury Avenue in Woodston, the full extent of the damage remains visible.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Damage to a trailer at Hotpoint in Woodston. Photo: David Lowndes

Huge numbers of burnt out washing machine drums (many of which had been stockpiled in case of a no deal Brexit) lie on the ground next to the rubble of the trailers as the lengthy clean-up process continues. It is not expected to finish for another week.

Away from here a police probe into the cause of the blaze continues, with five teenage boys currently under investigation after being arrested less than 24 hours after the first signs of smoke, but for Dave Sherrington, health and safety director in the UK and Ireland for Hotpoint's parent company Whirlpool, his focus is purely on the job in front of him.

Recalling the moment he first heard about the fire, he told the Peterborough Telegraph: "I received a call from the team at about 6.55pm.

I heard it was a fire but did not know the extent of it until I got onto London Road.

"I was liasing with the fire service as they needed to know if there were any hazardous substances here or risk to health and safety. There were canisters but they were empty."

It took more than 55 firefighters approximately three to four hours to bring the flames under control, with roads being closed and residents advised to stay indoors with their doors and windows closed.

The sound of tyres popping also created loud bangs which only added to the drama, although fortunately there were no injuries.

The final damage was later put at £2 million, with Whirlpool confirming that 52 trailers were damaged in the blaze.

The company today (Friday) welcomed the PT and MP Shailesh Vara to the its head office in Woodston, where the trailer park is situated, to describe how it has responded since the fire began.

Mr Sherrington described how the drums, which are made of stainless steel, cast alloy and plastic, are being segregated from the rest of the damaged items with use of the 'grabber' - a large piece of machinery.

The drums and the trailers will be recycled, while the debris will be put into skips.

Clay has also been put down to block water from getting into the drains and contaminating the River Nene.

Mr Sherrington said: "The Environment Agency was here in the evening and we are keeping in touch with them.

"We've had lab samples to check for contamination of water and they've all come back clear."

Whirlpool's head office, warehouse and call centre are all on site, with up to 600 workers present at any one time, although few were around when the fire began.

Whirlpool general manager Andrzej Tuleja said: "It was a distressful day, but the minute we established no people were hurt we felt a great relief.

"We have been cooperating with the fire brigade and police and can only express our gratitude to them.

"Ninety-nine per cent of the materais were spare parts and did not have an impact on our operations."

Asked about Brexit, which he discussed with Mr Vara, he added: "We are obviously watching very closely the Brexit developments. We are getting ready for all possibilities and are trying to prepare increased stock to cover our operations in case of any problems that do appear.

"I personally hope an agreement will be reached that will not take us to a hard Brexit."

Mr Vara, the Conservative MP for North West Cambridgeshire, said: "Despite this being a major incident I'm very pleased there have been no injuries.

"I would like to pay tribute to all the emergency services who acted very quickly and did a superb job in containing the fire in three hours. All credit, too, to the local community who rallied around, not withstanding the disruption to roads and the local facilities.

"I have had a good meeting with general manager Andrzej Tuleja and he has given me confidence that all the necessary work to clear up and make the area safe is being done. Clearly there needs to be cooperation with the Environment Agency and Health and Safety and the like, and I know that Whirlpool are actively engaging in all those conversations.

"Again, a big well done to all the people who were at the incident to ensure there were no injuries to anyone."