Aerial video: Investigators judge cause of major factory blaze in Heckington to be accidental as incident commander describes battle to bring it under control
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More than a dozen crews from across the county were involved at the site at The Roasting Company in Heckington Business Park on Station Road yesterday lunchtime after the first report at 11.30am and were there throughout the afternoon, calling in an additional water carrier vehicle, command unit and two aerial ladders.
Three relief crews dampened down hot spots in the early evening before handing over to investigators.
The fire investigation is now complete. The cause has been deemed accidental, but an exact reason was undetermined, according to the fire service.
A Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service official said the teams faced arduous and hot conditions but no-one was hurt as all workers were evacuated. Investigations are ongoing but there are no suspicious circumstances.
Group Manager Richard Friend, based at Waddington Training Centre, was incident commander at the blaze. He said: “We know where the fire started from eye witness accounts from within the building at the time.
“A frying or drying machine caught fire but we don’t know why yet.
“The fire went through the roof very quickly, but you can understand why as the frying machine is quite large and stands quite close to the ceiling of the building.”
He said they were initially hampered by five large extractor fans sucking the smoke out of the building, but the heat eventually caused them to fall through into the factory, sapping a lot of the fire’s energy and smoke, leaving five two metre square holes for the aerial platform to pour more water in safely.
Grp Mgr Friend added: “The black smoke was caused by the coooking oil in the fryers. They had about 6,000 litres of oil within the building but that is mostly intact and so there was limited damage to the environment.
“These elements made our job harder to get on top of teh fire but we also weighed up what was at risk. We knew everyone was accounted for and the building fire was already fully developed.
“It was too dangerous to send firefighters in to put it out, so we contained the fire within the structure. We could not guarantee that the roof was sound at first so we just put water through the doors to get to the seat of the fire and used the aerial platform above to get a good idea of the roof’s integrity. We weren’t sure if the chimneys were part of the roof structure or part of the structure within the factory. It turned out they were joined to the fryers and when the smoke cleared the roof was mainly intact.”
He said crews they did have to withdraw crews at certain points because of the intense heat reaching temperatures of up to 500C. As the smoke began to clear crews in breathing apparatus went in to tackle the seat of the fire.
Although much of the factory is severely damaged by fire, amazingly, a section at the rear of the building storing bulk bags of peanuts escaped relatively unscathed. Grp Mgr Friend said: “It looks like we managed to save one of the roasting machines, which the company is very grateful of and is looking at moving it elsewhere to carry on production.”
Neighbouring properties such as SAMS auto repairs on the industrial estate reported the area being showered in peanut shells from the contents of the blazing factory and Grp Manager Friend said he too had noticed al the nuts lining the access roads.
Local residents were advised to keep doors and windows closed.
He said: “I have to say it was an incredibly well-run incident and it was a large incident for Lincolnshire, committing more than 10 appliances. You have got to be grateful no-one was injured.
Most of the surrounding businesses had to stop work and evacuate the immediate area, while firefighters were able to go into the factory locker room to rescue keys to the staff’s cars parked all around the building.
Grp Mgr Friend commented: “They had thought they were all going to lose their cars - a few were damaged but not much. we do like to try and help with the little things in all directions if possible.”