Videos & Gallery: Businesses ravaged by blaze

TWO Suffolk businesses have been destroyed after being engulfed in a huge fire which ripped through part of an industrial estate today.

Russell Claydon

TWO Suffolk businesses have been destroyed after being engulfed in a huge fire which ripped through part of an industrial estate today.

Large plumes of thick, black smoke and flames shooting 30ft up in the air could be seen from miles away from the two units in Waldringfield Heath after the fire took hold at 10.21am.

Around 45 firefighters battled to successfully save the surrounding buildings, but two independent businesses were burnt to the ground on the Seven Acre Industrial Estate.

A 200 metre exclusion zone was put in place around the affected single-storey building, which contained two businesses, as potentially lethal gas cylinders were inside.

The blaze broke out in a welding shop and fire investigators are at the scene this afternoon to ascertain the exact cause.

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Police closed off Newbourne Road to the public in order to allow fire engines to have the best chance possible to get through to the rural location. Residents who lived close to the incident were also being urged to stay indoors and keep their windows and doors closed.

Eight fire engines and one appliance carrying water had the fire out at 12.10pm, but then began the process of damping down the area to make it safe.

Barry Atkins Welding and Pevex Enterprises - which distributes wood stoves around the country - were the affected premises which burnt to the ground.

Nobody was in the building at the time firefighters arrived but one nearby worker had to go to hospital with a hand injury after smashing the window of a car next to the unit in order to move it.

Adrian Hockley, the director of Pevex Enterprises spoke of the soul-destroying moment he watched his working life go up in flames.

“I have a pit in my stomach at the moment,” he said. “It was my unit directly behind the one that went up first.

“We just heard noises like mini explosions going off and basically people running around telling us to get out of the unit.

“We could see pieces of the roof were literally exploding off and billowing smoke and flames were shooting out of the unit next door.”

He said they had fortunately been able to rescue the office computer system and laptops, which were worth a lot, but the damage is still thought to total more than �20,000.

Ironically, he said, their adjacent showroom, containing wood burning stoves, also went up in flames.

“We are in a state of flux now while we wait to see what can be done,” he said. “We are doing a list of what has been lost now, but it is probably in the region of �20,000. The stoves themselves are worth between �500 - �2,000. So it is quite a loss but we are lucky because we have got insurance but we have still got the interruption to business at this busy time.”

He said early indications were it would take at least two months before they could get back into their office, which will cause a substantial loss of earnings to the business, which employs nine people.

“There was smoke billowing out of the building and flames shooting 30 ft up in the air, he added,” he added. “It was mayhem all around us.

“We are a small successful business but this will certainly set us back for a period of time while we regroup.”

Assistant Divisional Officer David Atkinson, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service's incident commander at the scene, said the damage could have been a lot worse were it not for their actions.

He said: “We had a severe fire on an industrial unit.

“The industrial unit basically repaired vehicles and therefore there were (gas) cylinders involved.

“When the first crews arrived it was a very serious fire and the main concern was having enough water to fight the fire and then preventing the spread to other adjacent buildings which we did.

“It was excellent work from the firefighters who got here first.

“We have lost the initial building. It has been unfortunately destroyed by fire but we managed to save the surrounding three buildings through firefighting.”

He said no people were trapped in the building and eight fire engines and a water bowser were involved in the operation to extinguish the flames.

This afternoon crews remain on scene cooling down the gas cylinders, which include volatile acetylene cylinders and propane, which were in the building at the time. It is not believe they pose a great danger after not reacting in the fire.

The BOC is on its way to the site to collect the cylinders and safely dispose of them.

The other 20 odd businesses on the unit have had their electricity cut off and are not able to get back to work today, but have spoke at their relief that the fire did not spread further.

- If you have any pictures or footage, send them to us at mark.heath@archant.co.uk.