A BLAZE that destroyed three fuel tankers, threatened surrounding businesses and caused more than £300,000 of damage is being treated as suspicious.

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About 50 firefighters were called to the UKay Fuel Limited storage depot on Lady Lane Industrial Estate in Hadleigh on Friday evening as witnesses reported columns of flame shooting 100ft into the sky.

Deputy Chief Fire Officer Mark Hardingham said crews were “greeted with a fireball” as flames ripped through tankers containing 29,000 litres of fuel.

Bosses of GB Oils, who operate out of the Crockatt Road site, yesterday said a “major disaster” had only been averted by firefighters who managed to prevent a giant static tanker containing a further 50,000 litres of fuel from igniting.

Fire and police investigation teams, who spent much of the weekend sifting through charred wreckage at the industrial unit to determine the cause of the blaze, now believe it was started deliberately.

A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said enquiries have begun to trace those responsible and appealed for anyone with information or who knows of someone on Friday night smelling of fuel to come forward.

Speaking yesterday, Simon Willis, general manager of GB Oils, said the fire had caused more than £300,000 of damage.

“Each tanker is worth about £100,000 and then there is the fuel, the damage to the perimeter fence and the loss of business in the mean time. It is a significant cost.”

But Mr Willis said he was grateful that the fire, which lit up the night sky over Hadleigh, did not have a more serious impact.

He added: “It could been significantly worse. We would personally like to thank the emergency services. Because of their prompt action a major disaster was averted. It is possible to contain a fire on three tankers, but if the other tanker (containing 50,000 litres) had gone up, it would have been a different issue.”

Although the firm will be trading as normal today from its Ipswich depot, Mr Willis said the destruction of vital vehicles came at what is traditionally the firm’s busiest time.

“It is not good to lose tankers at this time of year, in the heating season. It is a headache we could have done without,” he added.

Witnesses on Friday reported hearing “two almighty bangs” before seeing flames “100ft high”.

Motorists who passed the scene on the A1071, shortly before the road was closed, reported feeling the heat from the blaze through their car windows.

All of the tankers were extinguished by about 9pm, although two fire engines remained at the site throughout Friday night.

Anyone who was in the area of the fire on Friday afternoon or evening, or has any information about the incident should call Suffolk police on 101.

Do read our previous reports and see a video and gallery of the fire, click on the links at the top right hand corner of this story.

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