AFTERMATH: Recycling plant boss counts the cost - estimated at £500,000- of blaze which destroyed his company
- Credit: Archant
The boss of a recycling unit which was destroyed in a blaze on Tuesday night has estimated damaged at more than £500,000.
Two lorries, a forklift truck and specialist equipment were destroyed in the fire which ripped through NCB Commodities in Creek Fen Business Park, March.
Fire investigators suspect the blaze was caused by a fault to a van which was parked inside the unit.
The fire quickly spread to the rest of the unit leaving a trail of destruction in its wake - the roof has gone completely and inside is a sea of smouldering wreckage.
Brian Brader, 34, who trades as NCB Commodities, which recycles paper, glass, metals and plastics, said it would be sometime before the extent of the damage could be properly assessed.
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He said: “I left at 4.55pm and my colleague put the vehicle inside at 5.10pm. When he left everything was fine.
“I got a call at 5.40pm saying the unit was on fire and rushed straight here. I could see the smoke from Chatteris.
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“When I arrived the firefighters were already here. The unit was totally alight.”
Mr Brader, who employed four staff at the site, said he was uncertain about the immediate future “but we’re just going to have to work through it”.
Neighbour Pat Moore, whose home is less than 100 metres from the site of the blaze, said: “My husband Alf returned from the field at 5.15pm and there was nothing then but when my daughter Susan went to leave at 5.30pm, she popped her head out of the door and came straight back in.
“She said ‘I think there’s a large bonfire behind the warehouse. It looks dangerous’. I went to the end of the drive and didn’t like the look of it. I rang the fire brigade but someone had already alerted them. It went from nothing to a large blaze in 15 minutes.
“It was frightening. We were very concerned. Thankfully no one was there. Buildings are replaceable but people are not.
“The firefighters did a brilliant job. They were superb.”
Up to 12 fire crews were called to the scene and police stopped dozens of sightseers from trying to get close.
Plumes of smoke wafted across the Fenland skies prompting Cambs fire chiefs to issue an urgent warning for people to shut their windows.
Crews battled for more than three and a half hours to put out the fire before returning to their stations at 9.30pm.
Mr Brader, of Chatteris, said his recycling business had operated from Creek Fen since December 2012. Previously he had been one of three partners running 3b recycling which had occupied part of a double set of industrial units at Westry previously owned by Councillor Jan French.
Ironically the Westry buildings had been sold earlier this year to former gangmaster Roberto Mac before his business collapsed after the Gangmasters Licensing Authority withdrew his permit. Although most of his vehicles have long since gone, some were being stored at the Creek Fen park but none were damaged by tonight’s fire.
Cambs fire brought in extra water supplies to tackle the blaze after discovering issues with one of the hydrants along Creek Fen.
Crews from Dogsthorpe, Stanground, Yaxley, Whittlesey, Thorney, Wisbech, March, Chatteris, Huntingdon and Outwell were called to the scene and a command post set up to assess the damage and determine how long crews would need to stay on site.
Fire crews stopped the fire from spreading to nearby properties that included a small office block less than 300 metres away: the office had previously been subject to a failed planning application by owner Geoff Lord to convert it to a bungalow.
One resident said he was dismayed so many people had turned up to see the fire and in so doing had possibly hampered some emergency crews from getting through.
“There are so many cars turning up in Creek Fen if you come down stay out of the way,” he said.
Group Commander Sean Brown, the officer in charge of the incident, said: “The crews arrived to find a fire in a factory unit containing recycling material. The premises were closed for the night so no staff needed evacuating.
“More resource was quickly requested to stop the fire spreading to other nearby units. The crews did a fantastic job by acting quickly and decisively to ensure the fire didn’t spread.
“This is a timely reminder or factory and business owners to ensure their fire risk assessments are up to date and reviewed regularly. Our fire protection team holds regular seminars for businesses to provide information about fire safety in the workplace.”