Huge inferno at former Fisons factory may be arson, say fire chiefs
- Credit: Archant
A blaze which tore through the former Fisons factory at Bramford may have been started deliberately, according to firefighters.
People were evacuated from their homes as firefighters tackle the huge blaze which has engulfed the building in Paper Mill Lane, just outside Ipswich.
At its height, the entire shell of the building was in flames, and a plume of smoke visible for miles around.
Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service group commander Ian Mallet said the cause was believed to be “of suspicious origin”.
He said: “We were called at 5am to a request for additional resources on scene of a fire at a former commercial building.
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“Eight pumps, two aerial vehicles, one water vehicle and one command vehicle were dispatched as well as our air reconnaissance drone.
“The grade one listed building that is timber framed was well alight, as was the adjacent larger timber building.
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“We believe the fire to be of a suspicious origin.
“Large embers were spread in the smoke that spread to a nearby convertible vehicle which set it alight.
“There is asbestos in the building but it is considered to be of a low grade so officers are wearing masks. Adjacent residential buildings were evacuated and we expect people to be able return to their homes in a couple of hours.
“We expect the road to be closed for the rest of the day as a structural assessment needs to be made on the large building as there is a risk of it collapsing onto the road.
“A presence will remain on scene for the rest of the day.”
Two fire engines and an aerial appliance remain on site after Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service declared the incident under control at 7.48am.
Aerial photographs taken at the scene appear to show the main building completely dominated in flames, with huge plumes of smoke coming from the area.
People have also described hearing explosions and popping noises as far away as Ipswich town centre, caused by LPG cylinders which are inside the building.
Highways England has also warned motorists driving past the fire, which is close to junctions 52 and 53 of the A14, to beware of “large amounts of smoke blowing across the carriageways”.
Emma Helyard, 32, lives in Paper Mill Lane with her husband, daughter and two dogs.
She said: “I was asleep this morning and heard what I thought was roadworks, which I thought was outrageous this time of morning.
“It was a massive inferno. We saw five or six fire trucks and then a few cars which were being turned around.
“I have never seen anything like it. The noise as well – constant banging and popping. There were bits of building falling.
“They were using the mill pond next to our house. They parked the fire truck on our driveway.
“I have been here about four years. There has been so many fires – there’s constantly fires there. I have seen one when it’s just started, when driving past.
“We have seen a lot of children and adults coming out of there in the night. I think they are up to no good.”
A Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said people were being asked to stay indoors and keep their doors and windows shut, because of the huge plumes of smoke.
The spokesman later said people were being evacuated from their homes, although it is not clear how many at this stage.
The main Fisons factory building is ranked among Britain’s most endangered buildings by the Victorian Society.
The wooden structure of the old warehouse is Grade II listed.
It is not the first time the Fisons site has been hit by fire. Only last month, six fire engines were called to a blaze which was raging in a two-storey building on the site.
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