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Update/Video: Firefighters extinguish serious fire at Nestle Purina pet food factory in Sudbury which involved soya and animal fat – around 50 members of staff evacuated

PUBLISHED: 09:33 16 February 2015 | UPDATED: 09:33 16 February 2015

Fire crews at the scene in Sudbury. Photo: Mark Eley, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service

Fire crews at the scene in Sudbury. Photo: Mark Eley, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service

Archant

A pet food factory with up to 50 workers inside was evacuated when a major fire threatened to spread to 30,000 litres of acid.

Fire crews at the scene in Sudbury. Photo: Mark Eley, Suffolk Fire and Rescue ServiceFire crews at the scene in Sudbury. Photo: Mark Eley, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service

Thick plumes of smoke rose from the Nestle Purina factory on Chilton Industrial Estate, in Sudbury, at around 10.10am yesterday.

he fire affected three of the building’s five levels but no-one was hurt.

Officers say it was largely thanks to the knowledge of two part-time firefighters at the scene, who also happen to work at the factory, that stopped the incident from being much worse.

Fire crews were first called at about 10.15am – with the blaze involving four 30,000 litre tanks of animal fat.

Emergency services at the scene of a fire at the Nestle Purina factory in Sudbury.Emergency services at the scene of a fire at the Nestle Purina factory in Sudbury.

Between 30-50 staff were inside the factory, which was evacuated and will be closed today while an investigation takes place.

Carl Francis, area commander for Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, said there were serious concerns the fire would spread to another 30,000 litre tank of phosphoric acid.

The commander of the first crews from Sudbury, John Bromley, called for a total of six appliances as the severity of the fire became clear.

A total of 10 appliances from across Suffolk and Essex attended, including an aerial ladder platform, a foam appliance and a command support vehicle.

Mr Francis said: “The fire had the potential in the early stages to affect the whole factory. It started in the tank farm where there is raw soya and animal fat product. Four of the eight tanks were affected but not a tank which had the acid.

“The fire did then break into the building. It is a large commercial building and we were aware that the fire involved flammable product, an oil-based product and pockets of fire were elsewhere in the building.”

He added the knowledge of two part-time firefighters called to the scene, Stewart Collins and Jim Hillman, was a major part in helping the crews control the fire. The men work there full-time as an engineer and planner respectively.

“Their early action saved the fire from developing throughout the building because of their knowledge of the site,” Mr Francis said.

“They were able to tell us how to get into and around the building. Within a couple of hours we were quite confident that we had dealt with the fire and contained it and it was not going to developer further.”

Mr Collins, 42, said the building was heavily smoke-logged, with clouds of dust billowing into the air.

A spokeswoman for the factory said: “The most important thing is that the employees were evacuated safely, which was done. The site will be closed today to assess the damage.”

An investigation into the fire’s cause is under way. Mr Francis said he did not believe there were any suspicious circumstances.

The factory employes up to 100 people on a weekday and produces pet food by brands like Bakers, Winalot and Go-Cat.

Firefighters worked overnight to quell the flames of a blaze involving 500 tonnes of straw on farmland between Bury St Edmunds and Stowmarket.

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A woman in her 30s was rushed to hospital after two men dressed in black hoodies threw a mystery liquid into her face during a “random” attack.

The family of Corrie McKeague will today be out on the streets of Bury St Edmunds talking to members of the public to mark the year anniversary of his disappearance.

A teenager who had to be freed from the wreckage of a car by firefighters following a crash in Essex today is fighting for his life in hospital.

As the deadline for Stars of Suffolk nominations approaches, organiser Mick Parker is looking ahead to the “emotional and wonderful” annual ceremony that brings together the county’s unsung heroes for one night of celebration.

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