Boss pledges to rebuild after fire

A MOVE to deter criminals from breaking into a factory and the record-breaking temperatures may have caused a devastating factory fire.Investigations are continuing after the fire destroyed half of the West Suffolk Tool and Gauge Company in Barnham causing almost £500,000 worth of damage.

A MOVE to deter criminals from breaking into a factory and the record-breaking temperatures may have caused a devastating factory fire.

Investigations are continuing after the fire destroyed half of the West Suffolk Tool and Gauge Company in Barnham causing almost £500,000 worth of damage.

But the divisional officer at Suffolk Fire Service said the scorching weather, believed to be the hottest the region has ever seen , and fluorescent lights being left on after a spate of break-ins at the factory may have been contributory factors.

Kevin Burton said: "The main cause of the fire was electrical. The company had problems with break-ins in the past so they left some lights on to try and deter people.

"The factory had low ceilings and good insulation and it would have got very hot. The greatest probability is an electrical fault, caused by the lights being left on, led to the fire."

The blaze began at about 2.45pm on Sundayand it is believed the fire started in one of the two offices inside the factory. Both have been gutted and £400,000 machinery was also destroyed.

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The toolmakers have been part of the Gorse Industrial Estate for more than 30 years

Distraught owner Tony King said: "When I saw the damage, I just felt physically sick and I still haven't got over it. But we are trying to be as positive as we can and we intend to carry on.

"I think it was caused by something electrical as it was so hot on Sunday . Our walls are so thin and we have electrical boxes on the other side."

Mr King said it was the company's policy to leave the lights on after a break in less than a year ago, but he did not know whether this had contributed to the fire.

Sunday's temperatures peaked at 36.7C, almost 99F, according to Brooms Barn Station in Higham, which measure temperatures for the Met Office.

This broke the previous highest temperature of 34C recorded in 1990 and on one occasion last week.

At one stage the crews from Bury St Edmunds and Thetford had to stop work as the heat became too much.

Mr Burton said: "We had to cease operations for about five minutes so crews could recover but the fire had been put out by then."

Further problems were encountered when crews discovered asbestos sheeting in the walls and the roof of the single storey building.

Mr Burton explained: "This hampered operations because the more we disturbed it, the more fibres were given off. This stopped us from getting plenty of water moving around the place.

"It was also very difficult to investigate the cause of the fire because we couldn't turn the rubble over because of the asbestos."

A police spokesman confirmed they were not treating the fire as suspicious.

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